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Parker Named to 2013 All-USA Community College Academic Team

April 24, 2013

Antonio Parker  
Antonio Parker Sr.

Following a childhood accident, doctors told the grandmother of Antonio Semajes Parker Sr. that he would never earn a college degree due to the damage his brain had sustained.

Did he ever prove those doctors wrong. Parker not only completed an associate degree in criminal justice at St. Louis Community College, but he also has been named to the 2013 All-USA Community College Academic Team, presented by USA Today and sponsored by Follett Higher Education Group.

Twenty students from more than 1,800 nominees who represented 800-plus community colleges were chosen to the team. Winners receive textbook and academic scholarships to continue their education. The awards are administered by Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for community colleges.

“When I first found out that I made the team, I was shocked because I never imagined I would earn such an award,” he said. “I feel honored to be a part of this team because it is a great payoff for all my hard work.”

Parker, who is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society at STLCC-Florissant Valley, also was named a Coca-Cola Foundation New Century Scholar after being named to the Missouri Community College Association’s All-Academic First Team in March. The New Century Scholar is the individual who earns the state's top score on the All-USA Community College Academic Team application.

Early Struggles

Raised by his single handicapped grandmother, Parker was just five when he moved to one of the most dangerous parts of St. Louis from Chicago, Ill. The oldest of five, Parker and his siblings lived through gunshots every night. His mother was addicted to crack cocaine, and he grew up without ever seeing her because she was in and out of jail. He never knew his father.

At the age of 11 he was hit by an 18-wheeler while riding a bike. He was put into a medically induced coma and came out of it on his 12th birthday. Parker was then placed into a rehabilitation center, where he was taught to walk again along with other things he didn’t remember.

Parker grew up singing and ushering in Mt. Gideon Missionary Baptist Church, where the pastor was the only father figure he knew.

“As my grandmother began to get sick, church on Sunday lessened,” he said.   

Parker loved school because it was the only time he could really be a kid.

“At home, I had so many responsibilities taking care of my grandmother, my siblings and the house that I was forced to be a man at an early age,” he said.

During his freshmen year in high school, his principal suspended his credits due to poor attendance. Parker missed many days because his grandmother was confined to a wheelchair and he was the primary caregiver.

“I remember my principal arguing with my math teacher about how was it possible for me to earn such good grades if I was missing so much school,” he said.

He needed a parent or guardian to appeal the suspended credits, and because his grandmother was on her death bed and unable to show up, he lost those credits. 

And then at age 16, Parker lost what he felt was his only reason for living – his grandmother. After her funeral, one of his older neighbors told him that his grandmother was preparing him for this day – when he would have to take her place and take care of his family.

“Those words really kept me sane over the years and when things got hard, I always said to myself that if my grandmother could do it, so could I,” he recalled.

After his grandmother’s passing, Parker worked two jobs trying to keep her house. At times, they lived without light or gas, as he and his sister struggled to pay the mortgage. They eventually lost the house and he became homeless until family and friends decided to take him in. 

Newborn Inspiration

Parker’s life-changing moment came when his youngest son was born.

“I made a promise to him and myself that I would always be there for him no matter what,” Parker said. “I promised him a stable home, a lifetime of opportunities and a happy childhood, the exact opposite of mine.”

And he kept his word.

“Today, I am proud to say that I have earned my GED and I have completed my associate degree,” he said. “I have an academic scholarship to attend a university and it is more than I ever hoped for.”

Parker says his two sons Keshon Antonio Parker and Antonio Semajes Parker Jr., as well as his little brother Qu’Ran R. Banks, are his sources of inspiration.

“I work so hard to make sure they have everything I didn’t have when I was growing up,” he said. “I keep them in church and they play sports.”

Parker lives his life and carries himself in a way that they can look up to, while providing them with all the tools they need to be successful. He credits the staff at STLCC-Florissant Valley for pushing him and for going above and beyond to make sure he was motivated to move forward.

“In my life, I have been blessed to meet some amazing people that have always motivated me,” he said, adding that he is extremely grateful to those who believed in him when he didn’t believe in himself.

In his spare time, Parker enjoys mentoring youth, coaching and shooting pool. He hopes to be a founder of a non-profit organization and be well established in a law enforcement career.

Three years ago he just had hopes of obtaining a GED and trying to provide a stable home for his family. Now he is on his way to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

“I have certainly been blessed,” Parker said.