By Dylan Deprey
Paul Lamar Hunter is a product of his environment. He was child number 19 of 21.
He grew up in a dysfunctional family where education was far from stressed.
He helped his mother with her homeless shelter, and experienced addiction and the consequences of bad decisions first hand.
He was tired of working at his job and took an opportunity to eventually propel him to become the first member of his entire family to graduate from college at 42-years-old.
Since the day he held his diploma, he has wanted to share his story, and tell kids that if he could come from being “dirt poor” in a dysfunctional house in Racine, WI, anyone can make it.
“In the Hunter family we were always demoted, never promoted,” Hunter said.
His mother grew up during the Jim Crowe era in Vicksburg, Mississippi
“It was a very racist system back then,” Hunter said. “My mother learned at a young age, that that was the way to raise children.”
While his mother was still carrying him, she opened Love and Charity, the first homeless shelter established by African Americans in the state of Wisconsin.
Hunter said that growing up helping his mother with the homeless shelter was a blessing and a curse.
“When I engaged with men and women, they told me to never drink or use drugs, to always stay positive, to stay in school, and they have carried with me my entire life,” Hunter said. “The curse was my mother expressed love to the residents more than her own children.”
“My mom made mistakes, but I still love my mom. I think any parent will tell you they’ve made mistakes.”
In 2005, Mrs. Louise Hunter became the first author in the Hunter family. Dennis Woods wrote the book “Love and Charity,” which describes her successful missionary work.
Hunter graduated with an Associate Degree in Supervisory Management from Gateway Technical College, that same year. He then landed a job at Chrysler.
Though he was making good money, he called it quits when the plant announced it was closing and moving to Mexico.
“Sometime you are so sick and tired, and when you finally say ‘I’ve had enough,’ you mean it,” Hunter said.
He took an opportunity through Chrysler that sent him to college for free. He eventually ended up at Upper Iowa University.
“It was a weird experience, but I couldn’t have done it without using the resources the school provided,” Hunter said.
He got a tour of the campus, worked with counselors and advisors and he joined a study group.
“There were two girls that I’m forever in debt to, Dominica Stewart and Jasmine Lohr,” Hunter said.
Stewart was from Milwaukee and was part in Hunter’s study group. Lohr also studied with them and also gave Hunter rides from Racine and back. It wasn’t until graduation day that he realized how much they meant to him.
“I was the first person to graduate in my family, and nobody showed up,” Hunter said.
They told him that when he walked across the stage they would cheer for him.
“When I heard my name I heard cheering,” Hunter said. “This is an indication that if no one cheers for you in your household, there is somebody out there who will cheer for you. Who will acknowledge you, and who will give you praise.”
In 2012, Hunter published his book “No Love, No Charity,” a sequel to his mother’s book. Hunter said that both books reveal a sharp story contrast, and inquiring minds must delve into both to develop a deeper understanding of the Hunter Family saga. Hunter is now a motivational speaker.
He has been interviewed by local talk shows, and is hoping to share his story on a national platform. His book has also been converted into a screenplay with the possibility of a movie.
“I just wanted to bring something positive into peoples’ lives. If you live in the inner city you can make it. You just have to shake those bad behaviors and be around positive people.”
For more information visit www.paullamarhunter.com