Despite all odds, graduate student comes out on top

Despite all odds, graduate student comes out on top

Despite all odds, graduate student comes out on top
September 12
09:00 2018

From the lowest of lows and the highest of highs, Joe Winters Jr. has experienced it all.

Once the kid who was teased in school, shuffled from home to home and even occasionally forced to sleep in the streets, Winters is now a UNT graduate student pursuing his Masters of Education in Education Leadership, the CEO of two companies, a motivational speaker and the father to a 3-month-old baby girl. 

“Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of guidance,” Winters said. “I lost my mom at a young age, when I was eight years old, and my father was in prison. [When] my father got out of prison, he was very abusive mentally, physically [and] emotionally. I started running away from home when I was in seventh grade.”

Getting into high school, Winters said he was unsure of the steps he needed to take to get into college. He didn’t understand that he should have maintained a certain GPA if he wanted to get into specific colleges or where to even begin to get funding for college. It was not until his junior year when he met Young Life leader Bryan Levrets, through the Christian-based nonprofit Young Life, that he finally began to understand the college admissions process.

“Joe has kind of a crazy story,” Levrets said. “I made a deal with him: If he retook the ACT and got a good enough grade to get into whatever school he wanted to go to and he’d show me how he was going to pay for it, then I’d take him anywhere he wanted to go.”

Winters feels that the help and guidance he received from Levrets fueled his passion for helping others. This passion is what helped him start his first company, Pave the Path, an organization that works with underprivileged students with the college admissions process.

“I’ve always been driven and knew I was going to be successful [in doing] great things, but after having my daughter, wanting to be phenomenal was ignited,” Winters said. “I believe a person has five versions of themselves. [The first version] is that person that continuously chooses to make decisions to prevent them from doing anything. The average version, which is you just showing up and not choosing poor [decisions], but you’re not really putting any effort.”

“The good version is putting in effort but not really [being] disciplined. And then you have that great version of yourself, [saying] ‘I want to be good.’ But the difference with great and phenomenal, as far as the versions of ourselves go, is that you’re not [feeling like] you’re making sacrifices.”   

Pave the Path originated at Lamar University during Winters’ time there and has one physical location in Beaumont, Texas. However, Winters said his longterm goal is to implement it on multiple university campuses, including UNT.

Winters’ second company, No Grind No Glory, works with people, mainly athletes who may have experienced an upbringing like Winters, on fitness training. Having once been a student athlete and even playing college football, Winters felt that football was partially what kept him in line in his earlier years of school. Escaping his abusive father and living with different friends throughout his high school years also helped.

“He stayed with us [and] we worked together at Walmart, so we saw each other pretty much every day on the day,” Winters’ close friend Solomon Manning said. “Joe has a lot to offer the world [and] the youth. I honestly see him doing seminars across the United States.”

Although both men realize it is a bold statement to make, Manning and Levrets believe that Winters has the ability to change the world.

“I kinda learned with Joe that you can’t put him in a box,” Levrets said. “Because he’d always find a way to get out of it and exceed all the expectations.”

Winters feels that he owes his success to the early lessons offered by his mother.

“[My mother] was very phenomenal,” Winters said. “[As] a single mother raising three kids, she did whatever she had to do to take care of us. When I look at my life after her, it illuminated how great she was for us.”

Joe Winters Jr. asks a group of freshman football players to raise their hands if they have dreams. Winters played for the same team at Arlington Heights high school. Omar Gonzalez

Though their time together was brief, Winters feels that his mother instilled many pearls of wisdom within him.

Though their time together was brief, Winters feels that his mother instilled many pearls of wisdom within him.

“She told me at a very young age, I can do anything I put my mind to,” Winters said. “And there was a lot of other lessons she taught me. One time, she even told me that one day I’d find a girl that I was going to marry and that I’d love that girl more than I loved her.”

Being a child at the time, he did not understand, but her words of advice stayed with him as he grew older. Throughout his life, Winters said he has seen things starting to make sense and that it was her wise words which laid the foundation for what he stands for in life.

“I can’t say I’d be a huge believer in God if it wasn’t for my mom,” Winters said. “She was a God-fearing woman. Ultimately, I believe that’s where I get my hard work from because regardless of the work she was doing, she did an [absolutely] phenomenal job raising three boys on her own.”

Despite the odds, Winters continues to live out his mission to improve himself and those around him. Whether it be through his companies, his education or his family, Winters said the key to success is the willingness to pursue it.

“Be willing to work for whatever it is you want,” Winters said. “When you do what you want to do in life and you’re actually willing to work for it, your life will be very much more rewarding.”

Winters can be found on Instagram and Twitter @jlwinterss.

Featured Image: Joe Winters Jr. encourages Arlington Heights freshman football players to be phenomenal. Winters gives speeches at Arlington Heights regularly. Omar Gonzalez 

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Rebecca Najera

Rebecca Najera

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