The students leaned in listening closely and nodding their heads as if they related to some of the struggles Carter faced. Some seemed as though the message hit home, gazing in awe of the man who beat the odds and made something of himself.

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Students at Donaldsonville High School received an inspirational message about overcoming adversity from motivational speaker Alton Carter. The Oklahoma-native travels the country sharing his story of strength, perseverance, and determination.

By the time Carter finished high school, he had been in 17 foster homes, three institutions, and a boy's ranch. His mother was an addict, and his father abandoned him before birth. He grew up in a dysfunctional and abusive home, which led him to the foster care system. Yet in spite of it all, Carter became the first person in his family to graduate high school and later went on to earn a bachelor's degree from Oklahoma State University.

Carter explained to the high schoolers that at some point he "got tired of being bitter" about the challenges he faced. He tackled those obstacles head on and learned the value of hard work. He talked about the struggles of being the only black student in an all-white school, the abusive leaders at the boy's ranch, the learning difficulties he faced in school because of dyslexia, and the family problems he dealt with at home. And then he told them how he overcame all of it.

The students leaned in listening closely and nodding their heads as if they related to some of the struggles Carter faced. Some seemed as though the message hit home, gazing in awe of the man who beat the odds and made something of himself.

Carter told a story about the Christmas when he saved up all his money from working at the boy's ranch to buy everyone in his family a Christmas gift. He put a lot of thought into each present, specially choosing each with a relative in mind. When he went home for Christmas, he was thrilled to pass out the presents and see the surprise on everyone's face. That is, until he realized that no one, not a single member of his own family, had thought to get him a gift.

Carter went on to explain how anger about this day colored his view of the holiday season for years to come. He held onto that resentment, saying he was even bitter towards his own children during the holidays for something that happened so many years ago. He brought it up one year to a family member, asking them to recall the year he was forgotten. That person told Carter that although they didn't remember the year he got nothing, they did remember the time he gave something to everyone.

"It dawned on me at that moment," Carter said, "I grabbed hold of the wrong memory, and it crippled me."

The speaker used that story as an example of the dangers of allowing ourselves to be weighed down with hate and anger and the lasting effects of resentment. He spoke about the importance of choosing to be better, not bitter. He said we are not defined by what happens to us, but rather how we choose to react.

"Society does not care what happened to you as a child," said Carter. "They will judge you by your character now."

He told the kids about consequences, and how his life would have been different if he'd succumbed to the difficulties he faced. His brother was convicted of numerous domestic abuse charges after watching abuse in their home growing up. His sister committed suicide by overdose because she couldn't handle all life had thrown at them. Another of his brother's became an addict. Carter said that could have just as easily been his life, but he chose to do better.

"They saw the pain that we went through...," said Carter, "and yet they did nothing different."

Carter is a well-paid speaker typically compensated for his events, but he came to DHS on his own dime and spoke to the kids for free. Some asked questions at the end of his address, and others stayed after to speak with him one on one. He even promised one sophomore that if he graduated with a 3.0 GPA or higher, he would give the student $1,000 towards college. The two shook on it, so it's official now.

The challenges Carter faced are similar to the struggles many of the students at the event encounter. He seemed to inspire them with his story of overcoming those battles to become the man and father he is today. He left the kids with a message about what it means to push through the hard times and not blaming others for personal shortcomings.

"If you fail in life," Carter said, "it's no body's fault but your own."

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