MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Justin Lawrence refused to become another statistic.
He managed to side-step living in a gang-infiltrated neighborhood and became a college graduate in December 2013 when he graduated from MTSU with a bachelor’s degree in recording industry management.
Lawrence, 24, grew up in Chattanooga. The child of a single mother, he lived in public housing and hasn’t seen his father since he was 6 years old.
Lawrence was a hyper kid during his youth, which led to a misdiagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder at one point. However, it turns out that boredom was the cause of his unrest.
“I was a rambunctious kid, but it was because the schoolwork was so easy. I would act up because I was bored,” Lawrence said.
His teachers eventually realized that Lawrence needed to be enrolled in the advanced classes.
This threw him a bit in college, though, Lawrence said because he felt that those advanced high school classes were “dumbed down.” As a result, Lawrence took a remedial math class to adjust.
During high school, Lawrence faced peer pressure but never gave in. His friends were involved in crime, but Lawrence had other plans.
“People would tell me, ‘Awe, you’re an ‘A’ student. You’re lame,’” he said. “But, I thought the people who were lame were the ones stuck in the same grade for two years.”
The young man was motivated to succeed no matter what his doubters had to say.
“I had a high school counselor tell me she hoped I was good at football because I wouldn’t make it otherwise,” he said.
Though Lawrence used to play football as a running back, he knew it was never his calling.
In fact, he didn’t receive his calling until he transferred to MTSU after a year at Carson-Newman College.
At MTSU, Lawrence changed his major from math to recording industry management because of his deep love for music.
“Without music, I don’t know if I could live,” he said. “I find music to be therapeutic.”
His favorite hip hop artists include Jay-Z and Curren$y. While Lawrence said he enjoys listening to appealing grooves, he plans to be more involved in music publishing. Someday, he plans to have his own record label.
Lawrence said his post-graduation plans are to continue working at a warehouse until he gets an opportunity to get a job in the music business.
The recent graduate said he always saw options and possibilities for himself, refusing to submit to the stereotypes that were expected of him.
“I never let my environment dictate what kind of person I was going to be,” he said. “Everyone has a choice.”