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Andrew Ross: Motivational, inspirational and focused

Cyril Josh Barker | 4/12/2011, 4:39 p.m.

Leaving a life behind he says was going to lead him nowhere, Andrew Ross overcame street gangs, violence, prison and even beat death to become a mentor and motivational speaker.

Ross, 39, is a program coordinator at Harlem United, a support service center for people living with HIV/AIDS. But Ross also takes on various roles in the community that include mentoring young fathers and teaching people how to be leaders through his motivational speaking.

Life wasn't always easy for Ross growing up in Far Rockaway, Queens. He is biracial, with an Irish mother and Black father. Ross said that he experienced domestic violence in his home and was often physically assaulted by neighborhood kids because he was biracial. This led him to take a different road.

"There was a lot of peer pressure for me to be a part of certain groups," he said. "I was beat up everyday at school and in the streets."

Not being able to take the abuse, Ross dropped out of high school in the 11th grade and turned to Satanism as a way to express his anger. He also turned to alcohol and drugs. He practiced the religion throughout his youth for nine years.

He said, "That put me in my own category where I pushed people away."

In 1990, Ross got into a bad fight in which he injured a man and ended up in prison. He served two-and-half years on Rikers Island. When he was released, he started on the right track, but soon veered back to his old ways, selling drugs and getting into trouble. His life was spinning so out of control he contemplated suicide.

Beating death, he got into a fight on the street and was left for dead. He took a blow to the head that resulted in a brain injury. Ross recovered from the injury with no mental problems.

At age 25, he had his daughter. That resulted in him making some crucial changes to his life. Ross said that he doesn't keep anything from his daughter, now age 14, about his past and said their relationship is close, even being friends on MySpace.

"I started to realize I had to get my life together," he said. "My daughter is so important to me, and I want her to grow up seeing a good example." Ross got his GED and went to Metropolitan College, where he earned his bachelor's degree in human services. He also holds a master's degree in emergency disaster management and an M.B.A. in general man- agement. He currently is pursuing a Ph.D. in urban policy. Along with his strong educational background, Ross is also looking to be an author.

He is currently writing a book titled "9 Lives." The book is an inspirational read about Ross' various brushes with death that could have prevented him from changing people's lives. Ross became a born-again Christian and is a member of the Christian Cultural Center church in Brooklyn.

"I know my story is extremely powerful and my purpose is to help other young men and women that struggle with everyday issues," he said. Ultimately, Ross said he wants to be a well-known, inter-national motivational speaker and wants to help people "realize their potential and maximize their strengths." Ross said that he especially wants to help youth, citing the media and Internet social networking websites as reasons why young people are having problems.

In order to live his life day by day, Ross said he uses six elements that he said gives him motivation.

"Spirituality, mental health, through meditation, physical health through exercising, socializing, increasing educational level and financial health are the basic ingredients for a balanced life," he said.