Exiting the Fast Lane

  • Jason-Grad-Pic-thumb

  • Exiting the Fast Lane

    By Jonathan Gramling, Capital City Hues

    Jason Brent, the keynote speaker at the Omega School spring graduation ceremony held June 18th at the Fountain of Life Church, didn’t have much direction in life as he was growing up. He grew up in Chicago in a single parent household. “I had a mom who was the greatest mom ever who spent time and days trying to mold me into a man, but she was a single parent and that was hard for her to do because she couldn’t relate to me being a man. She worked hard.” Brent said.

  • Brent’s family moved to Madison when he was 16-years-old and Brent was more focused on basketball – and the street life – than he was on academics. He dropped out of LaFollette High School.

    “I was just living life, the fast life, enjoying getting money and not really thinking about my future,” Brent said. “I remember a teacher telling me in Chicago that I wouldn’t live to see past 20-years-old because of the way that I was going. At that time, I embraced the street life where I had tattooed my neck because I didn’t respect my body enough to understand that in the business world, that is unacceptable because I had never thought that I would see that.”

    By the time he was 23-years-old, Brent started to think about what he was going to do. But he couldn’t picture himself going back to school. “I just felt, ‘I’m too old,” Brent said. “I had given up on myself.”

    Brent ended up running into Oscar Mireles, the executive director of Omega School, around 2000. Over the course of several years, Mireles stayed after Brent to get his GED, even when Brent wasn’t interested. “The crazy part was Omega never gave up on me,” Brent recalled. “They chased me. Even when I passed the practice test and then failed the regular test and gave up, Oscar still chased me down. I used to tell Oscar, ‘Do you have a connection with the phone company? Every time I change my phone number, you find a way to get it.’ He knew that I didn’t have a father. I embraced that father figure he was bringing to me. “If somebody really cared about me getting educated, why shouldn’t I care for myself,” Brent said. “So I got up one morning. I had a ton of fear in me because I didn’t know what to expect. And Oscar opened his arms, embraced me and took me under his wing. The staff at Omega worked with me around the clock. I literally quit my job in order to focus on passing this GED. I passed it in three months. It was like right away. I think a lot of the times students or guys my age fear because a lot of their reading potential or math skills are still eighth grade or high school level. I felt as if my determination was what drove me to really pass those tests. I wanted to be smart. I didn’t want to be dumb anymore. I wanted to be viewed as a part of society.”

    When he graduated from Omega, Brent was full of dread because he didn’t know what his next move was. But Mireles hooked him up with UW-Whitewater, the coach watched some of his basketball tapes and Brent went to Whitewater and earned his degree with a 3.0 GPA. Brent is now the branch manager for the World Foremost Bank branch located in the Cabela’s in Sun Prairie. His American Dream had been achieved. “The thing about life is that success doesn’t discriminate,” Brent emphasized to the Omega graduates. “Success doesn’t care if you are Black, white, young or old. Success is there for you. It just depends on how bad you want it. At the time, I just didn’t know that I wanted it that bad. But with the staff, they really pushed me. And because of that, I’m grateful and that’s why I come and speak to you guys because I’m living proof that if you put that positive energy out there, you will succeed. The drive has to be there. You have to want it. And today, you guys are showing that you want it by coming here, graduating and putting that hard work and dedication in. So congratulations! Good job!”

    Brent is living proof that any life can be turned around if the internal drive is there and the right help and support is nearby. Jason Brent and Omega School made a winning combination.