By Becky Killian / Editor
Those attending Union College’s spring convocation Thursday were challenged to put others above themselves in order to be effective servants.
That challenge was issued by Kevin Singleton, a 1987 graduate of Union College who founded Elevate New York, a nonprofit, educational mentoring program for students in the Bronx.
Singleton, 49, shared his background with the audience, saying he had experienced racism while growing up in Louisiana. When he came to Union College on a basketball scholarship to major in accounting, he recalled driving along Cumberland Gap Parkway in a blue Chevy Monza. Once in Barbourville at the college, he recalls how he was befriended by a white couple who gave him a set of keys to their home — an act of trust that touched him deeply.
Although Singleton had been raised in a Christian environment, he said the faith didn’t become relevant to him until he saw others practicing it while he was at Union.
After graduating, Singleton played professional basketball before he became a motivational speaker. He traveled up to 250 days a year throughout the U.S. as well as to international destinations and has spoken to more than three million youth in 20 countries.
On Thursday, Singleton told the assembly he was determined not to be a boring speaker, so he left the podium and mingled among those seated on the floor of the college’s gym.
In a presentation he said was titled, “From Union to Uganda: Living a Life of Service,” Singleton told the audience’s members they must be selfless in order to be good servants. Being selfless means honoring others. Among those Singleton said he honors is his wife.
“That’s why she still thinks I’m hot,” he said, adding she keeps that perception despite some weight gain.
After telling the story about the couple who entrusted him with the keys to their home, he said he had no idea his life would be changed by the college and the community. Not everyone who is a Christian effectively demonstrates the faith — Singleton cautioned those present not to judge a world view based on someone’s misuse of that view. He then challenged them to make sure their world view allows them to put others above themselves.
Singleton also advised his listeners to be “epistemologically aware.”
“It’s not what you know. It’s how you know what you know,” Singleton said.
He explained you can’t serve a culture without learning about it. When encountering people who practice other faiths, Singleton said he first aims to demonstrate a Christian life to them rather than “shoving it down someone’s throat.”
A good servant must also be willing to repent, Singleton said. Explaining the Greek origin of the word — a willingness to change your mind — he said you must be willing to change your mind for the greater good.
Finally, Singleton urged his audience to be vulnerable — to open their hearts — to others.
Being a servant also means being humble and knowing there’s always more work to be done, Singleton said.
After closing with a prayer for those gathered, Singleton received a standing ovation.
Singleton said he had spoken to Union College President Dr. Marcia Hawkins prior to the convocation about the Elevate New York program. The two explored how a similar program could be implemented in the area.
The Bronx mentoring program serves students typically considered at-risk.
“I don’t call them ‘at-risk,’” Singleton said. “I call them underexposed.”
Singleton said the Bronx district is among the poorest of the nation’s Congressional districts. Despite the challenges the students face, the Bronx school has graduation rates that exceed 90 percent.
To learn more about Elevate New York, visit www.elevatenewyork.org.
By Becky Killian / Editor
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