Volney “V.P.” Parker, a motivational speaker from Sherwood, used humor to encourage Pine Bluff High School students to get a college degree during the Say Go College rally Friday, the final event in a week-long series of activities sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.
Parker said he rose from meager beginnings in Lonoke to become a corporate trainer sought after by Fortune 500 companies.
“I remember playing ball — I was a baller,” Parker said as he stood at mid-court in the gymnasium. “I stand all of 5’7” now and I was probably 5’2” in high school.
“It ain’t about how short you are or how tall your are,” Parker said as he began surveying the young people filling the bleachers on either side of the court. “It ain’t about the money you got or don’t got. What it’s about is you and your heart.
“Y’all remember that song — ‘Whoop There It Is?’” Parker said as the students immediately respond with the refrain from the popular hip-hop song.
“I say Whoop, you say —,” Parker said, holding open the phrase.
“There it is!” the students shouted in unison.
Then Parker danced. He threw his body into a fast-paced rhythm finished off by a leaping double toe touch. The students went wild with cheers and applause.
“I’ve got another song for you,” Parker said as the opening music to “Statistics” by Lyfe Jennings played over the sound system. “Don’t be a nickel out here lookin’ for a dime,” the song goes.
“Remember that: Don’t be a nickel lookin’ for a dime,” Parker said.
“I’m from Lonoke, Ark.,” Parker said, “where the mosquitoes are bigger than the rats. I graduated in the class of 1989. We thought we were the best but everybody thinks that. I’m from a single-parent home with two brothers: One above and one below. I was the middle child. We were so poor we got our milk by the pound and not by the gallon. For all y’all that don’t know, that means we had to add water to make our milk.”
Parker said that he didn’t let his diminutive size hold him back in high school, becoming an all-region point guard in basketball and one of the top hurdlers in the state.
“I went to college and got a degree in communications,” Parker said. “I didn’t know that’s what I was going to do. At first I wanted to be a psychiatrist to help people, but then I found out you had to go to medical school for that so I said, ‘I think I want to be a psychologist.’ I realized that I could get paid just for talking and so after a while I was speaking to groups.
“For the last 20 years people have been calling me to speak,” Parker said. “Maybe you’ve heard of some of them: Monster Jobs, Burger King, Proctor & Gamble, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Caesar’s Entertainment.
“Now when I got to speak to these people, I don’t go around saying y’all,” Parker said. “I don’t do this,” Parker said, mimicking the swagger walk of many teenagers. “I also don’t do this,” Parker said as he pulled his pants to make them sag.
Parker brought a small notebook out of his back pocket.
“Statistics,” Parker said.
“Nationally, 66 percent of males go to college,” Parker said. “But ladies let me tell you, 73 percent of women go to college. In Arkansas, only 47 percent of men go to college while 56 percent of women in Arkansas go to college.
“Gentlemen, no matter how much game and swagger you think you’ve got, if you can’t bring home the bacon, she don’t want nothing to do with you,” Parker said to the raucous cheers of the female students.
“Now ladies,” Parker said as rumbles of anticipatory agreement started coming from the male students. “Y’all are like, ‘You tell ‘em VP,’” Parker said to the men in the audience with a laugh.
“Ladies, men are saying that it’s not enough for you to look good. They want someone who they can carry on an educated conversation with. Now ladies: Your curves; your hair all did up; beautiful. But 20, 30, 35 years from now, you won’t look as good as you do now. So it is important that you get your education.”
Parker said that the average annual income of someone without a high school diploma is $19,540, the average for someone with a high school diploma is $27,380, with an associate degree it is $36,980 and with a bachelor’s degree it is $46,000.
Parker said that if a student goes on to secure a college degree, then they will be on the way to success.
“Then you’ll be a dime lookin’ for a dime!” Parker said with enthusiasm.