Christian Rhys Perkins is a 23-year-old college student and athlete, whom I had the opportunity to have a heart to heart interview with about life, school, goals, and controversy.
He is originally from the Northside and graduated from Perry Traditional Academy.
He has attended three colleges since 2012. His mother became sick with lupus, while his father also suffered from a severe stroke.
Mr. Perkins said, "My mom keeps me motivated everyday. She has lupus and arthritic condition and growing up it hurts to see your mom go through pain everyday. My mom who is Leslie Kelly and she went to Point Park University to pursue her degree in Business Management. My mom runs a daycare, cleaning, and catering business upon request in the city of Pittsburgh. Growing up my living situation wasn't the best but me and my mom made the best of it. There were times living in section 8 housing and we didn't have hot water, heat and much food in our apartment. My father is a big motivation to me as well. My father who is Ronald Perkins from the Hill District was a Jazz historian and writer for the Pittsburgh post gazette, The Pittsburgh Press, WQED, and was also a radio host. He attended the University of Pittsburgh and got a degree in Journalism. A few years ago my father suffered from a massive stroke that caused him to have problems speaking, walking and living on his own. He is now in a nursing facility and is doing much better than before. Lastly my last part of motivation is that living in section 8 housing motivated me to grind and get out of the living situations that I live in. Going through poverty and hard times are very emotional for you and your family; but you have to be mentally strong and have faith and make the best out of your situation."
Mr. Perkins chose to take a leave of absence from college to return home and help his parents.
He is now currently back in school, studying at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. He is the only Black student athlete whom achieves a 3.5 GPA. Which is extremely impressive given his circumstances of having to balance life, school, and athletics.
"It is very tough but you must stay mentally prepared and focused. Dealing with basketball and having workouts, practice, study hall, games and film sessions can be mentally exhausting. Also school can become stressful with all of the studying, homework, exams, and papers that you have to do but once you apply yourself it's not bad. Family is a major key because when your at school you might not have the time to talk to them or see them depending on your schedule. I try my best to stay in touch with my immediate family daily. This past year I managed to get over a 3.2 GPA and have gotten scholar athlete and academic all conference awards from my school. I was one of the only black student athletes to receive those two awards and it was such a great accomplishment because I've never received any awards in my life for academic excellence,"'Mr. Perkins said.
Mr. Perkins deserves a badge of honor for his commitment to his family and dreams. Many years ago he set out to live a life different from his peers, and saw family and friends choosing a path of drugs that led to prison; he decided then that he wanted something different.
He currently mentors and trains young men and plans to continue to inspire youth with his story. While he would also like to pursue a career in professional basketball overseas after completeing college.
Mr. Perkins said, "Growing up in two different neighborhoods was different for me. Weston White and Clarence Battle played major roles in my life and they still have a big impact on my life. Weston White aka "Tiny" worked for the Jefferson Rec Center on the North Side, kept me off of the streets by putting sports into my life and he was very hard on me and pushed me to be great. Clarence Battle was my dads childhood friend who ran Ammons Rec Center in the Hill District. He always would teach me new things as a kid and made sure I was doing the right things. These guys were very hard on me because they wanted me to succeed. They seen something in me that other people didn't. Other people I would like to mention are Jack Higgins, Pete Strobl, Tony Gaskew, Leonard Franklin Jr, Eugene Jarvis, Andre Irish, Ace Pippens, David Gordon, Loren Clemm, George (Champ) Saddler, Greg Young, Thomas Kelly and Langston Kenney all of these guys still play a major role in my life today!"
Continue to press on Mr. Perkins.