My name is Gabriel Lynn McNeal. I am a senior at Point Park University and plan to graduate in May with a degree in Communications. I am a former basketball player for Point Park University, as well as the founder and president of the Go Pro In the Game of Life Foundation. My goals are to establish the Go Pro In the Game of Life Foundation programs in the Greater Pittsburgh communities, nationally and while simultaneously working in the radio and television industry.
I grew up with the odds stacked against me. Both of my parents, and several other family members, have spent time in prison or jail. I had many opportunities to continue down the same path, but I refused to be a bench warmer in the game of life. If I can overcome these difficult circumstances, I believe I can inspire other youths to do the same.
Therefore, my passion is to help youths with similar challenges become successful in the game of life. I attribute my academic success to my reading background. Through all of my struggles outside the classroom, school provided me an escape and allowed me to rise above those external pressures. Reading was a pivotal skill that aided my scholastic mobility and I look forward to instilling its value within the youth of Pittsburgh and over the nation.
I know my reading background instilled in me by my father is what helped me have focus and discipline while progressing through k-12 and college.
On the weekends my father would have my brother and I look up definitions and read. On Saturdays we would look up 10 definitions and write them down. On Sundays we would read something for 15-30 minutes and write about it. We would then have to read our definitions and what we wrote about. 30 minutes of work on Saturday and Sundays allowed us to have plenty of “free time ” to go outside and play. We were developing work ethic and didn’t realize how much it would benefit us in the future. My brother and I would work on our basketball skills, play football , video games and ride our bikes with our “earned” free time. I soon began to realize how much my extra work on the weekends was helping me in school.
In middle school I was a good speller and wasn’t afraid to volunteer to read when the teachers would ask. Working on my basketball skills also helped me because I was the only 6th grader to make the middle school basketball team. Throughout middle school I was a good student and popular basketball player.
When I was in the 8th grade I made some bad choices and was hanging out with the wrong crowd. The so-called friends of mine influenced me to participate in vandalizing the school we went to, we were caught and I was suspended from school and kicked off the basketball team.
When I got to high school I let peer pressure get to me again. I started skipping school and not taking my school work seriously. My father would try to encourage me to read and would offer me money to read books. I had become lazy and told him I wanted to live with my mother. I was looking for the easy way out because of the friends I was hanging around. My father let me live with my mother. It was like he knew I was heading for self-destruction because the friends I was hanging with didn’t have a game plan or goals. He was right.
I failed off the 9th grade basketball team and the 9th grade as well, got arrested for stealing was suspended for skipping school.
I knew I had to get back to my father’s house to get refocused and disciplined. I talked to him and asked him if I could come back and he said yes. He made me write down my academic goals and told me I had to achieve them if I wanted to stay with him and participate in basketball.
My goals were to make sure I didn’t make any grades below a “C, ” read and work hard on the basketball court. I have maintained those goals all throughout high school and college.
I wasn’t a highly recruited basketball player, but I was a good student with some good basketball skills. My work ethic enabled me to earn a scholarship to Cecil Community College in Northeast, Maryland. I earned all-regional team honors and my team won the Maryland Juco Tournament and advanced to the NJCAA Tournament where we finished ranked 12th in the nation.
While at Cecil Community College I realized what else I was good at besides basketball. My English professor asked me to read a prepared statement for the president of the school and the faculty. I told my father about it and he explained why she probably asked me. He said your professor has recognized your ability to effectively communicate and articulate your words properly. I then realized it was because of my reading and definitions background. Defining words helped me with my vocabulary skills and reading gave me confidence when I did oral book reports in high school.
I did a great job reading the prepared statement for the president of the school and the faculty. My professor was proud of me. I met with the president of the school the next day and he asked me if I would be interested in being the “student host” for incoming freshmen. I really enjoyed being the student host. I found out that I have a great personality, communication and social skills.
I was then able to realize what career I wanted to pursue. I have always enjoyed music and talking to people, so I decided to major in communications to become a radio personality and some day advance to television. I now had a “Game Plan for Life.”
When I graduated from Cecil Community College I signed a scholarship to play basketball at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. We were a nationally ranked and one of the top NCAA-Division II teams in the country. It wasn’t a good fit for me academically and socially. Most of the people I was around weren’t serious about school and I didn’t want to be a follower anymore, I wanted to be a leader.
My Father and I looked into into some schools and saw that Point Park University had an extremely successful communications program and basketball tradition. I knew that Point Park University would be a great fit for me academically and socially. I’ve had a standout basketball career at Point Park University and I’m scheduled to get my B.A. Degree in Communications in May 2015.
My success academically is because of my reading background. Reading helped me develop work ethic, discipline, mental toughness, gave me confidence and the ability to retain information. My reading foundation helped understand what it takes to be successful athletically as well. I had the same work ethic, discipline, mental toughness and confidence when I was the gym or outside working on my game.
I had a few set backs and had to overcome some obstacles in my life. I overcame those obstacles by setting goals for myself, making better choices and continuing to read.