Businessman overcame odds, inspires Philadelphia teens

Friday, May 25, 2012

He overcame an abusive family, gangs and prison to become a successful world entrepreneur. And this week he brought his message to dozens of Philadelphia teenagers.

"Tell me what you can do. Show me what you can do," Andre Norman said to his attentive audience.

Andre is showing the world what he can do against enormous odds!

Andre grew up in Boston. He says he was abused by his father. Drugs and crime led him to prison.

But he overcame it all to form a global business as a respected consultant for non-profits and government agencies.

"Don't let others hold you down," he preaches. "Don't let others be your excuse."

The Entrepreneurs Organization of Philadelphia (EOP) introduced Andre to the city's Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).

"One of the things EOP members like to do besides business," said the group's incoming president, Bob Simpson, "is teach."

NFTE brought 35 juniors from Philadelphia's World Communications Charter School to learn from Andre's lessons.

"I had 14 years in a cage," he told them, "surrounded by psychopaths. I had 18 years in the most dysfunctional family you're going to see ever, surrounded by psychopaths. That didn't stop me! My family didn't change, I changed!"

His words resonate with young people.

"He started from the bottom, started from nowhere," said high school junior Shayla Watkins. "Look at him now. He's successful."

"I learned a lot from it," said Taylor Thompson, a student at the World Communications Charter School. "You should surround yourself with people who want the same thing as you."

High school junior Zamir Andrews said he had heard similar words before, "but not like that."

"I keep it honest, don't try to glorify it," said Andre.

"He's not full of himself," said junior Italia Washington. "He says, 'Even though I'm successful, I'm still going to help you.'"

"He taught me, 'Don't let anybody break you down, don't let anybody tell you you can't do this,'" said junior Dextina Nebo.

"I'm going to go home and just scream that I'm gonna be on top of the world," said junior Azure Chesney. "It's nothin' that's gonna stop me!"

Andre Norman's brutal honesty had a positive impact on every student I spoke with. He also told them that there are people in the world who are counting on them, not just in their households, but elsewhere in Philadelphia and outside this country as well.

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philadelphia, teens, local/state, lisa thomas-laury
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