From poverty to professor - J'can uses athletics to excel
While growing up in the community of Alexandria, St Ann, Richard Cross said he didn't have many of the basic necessities many persons take for granted.
The 35-year-old, who attended the Aabuthnott Gallimore High School, said that in order to get money, he used to accompany his mother when she did domestic work such as cleaning churches.
"For some time, we didn't even have electricity and I didn't have a bed to sleep on most of the times. During my younger years, I had to sleep on a pile of clothes as my mattress," he said.
Cross said he believed that because he was underprivileged ,it affected his performance in school.
"During high school, I performed poorly and graduated with zero subjects, and that was after doing them twice, because I repeated grade 11. The reason why I repeated was because I wanted to represent my school at Boys and Girls' Champs, which I did get to do up until grade 11," he said.
Although failing five subjects twice and feeling that he would never leave Alexandria, Cross used athletics to help him escape his economic situation.
Because of his athletic prowess, Cross, who competed in the 800 metres at the championships, was given a chance to attend the G.C. Foster College.
However, while at G.C. Foster, his academic woes would continue.
"When I left G.C. Foster, I didn't have maths and English, even though I sat the exams on numerous occasions, so I couldn't even enrol for a diploma programme," he said.
He then joined the police force ,where he still competed in athletics.
It was while representing the Jamaica Constabulary Force in Miami that he was offered a scholarship to attend a university in the United States.
"I almost didn't get the scholarship because the coach said I was too old (he was 24). I said to him, 'If you want to know what someone does with an opportunity, give it to me'," Cross said.
Having received the scholarship to Lincoln University in Missouri in 2006, Cross said it was after getting straight As in his first two semesters and making the Dean's List that he discovered the potential he had.
Now, he is a professor at Clark Atlanta University, an empowerment speaker, coach, mentor, and author of the book, Going Beyond Limitation, through which he hopes to inspire youth, especially young boys from poor backgrounds.
"Someone helped me. Now it's my time to let our youth realise that where they've started doesn't mean that's where they have to finish. Our youth need us, and I want to be a part of making a positive impact for positive change," he said.