Through the years, A Vision in Motion founder Jay Gittleson’s dream to ‘make a difference’ has flourished , and he credits the success to his ever-expanding portfolio of talented speakers, whose stories and presentations captivate audiences with dramatic stories of adversity, triumph, and change. Now it’s Jay’s turn to overcome adversity. His kidneys failed in 2017 leaving him with no other option but to start hemodialysis. He now goes to dialysis three days a week and has launched a project called ‘Dialing From Dialysis’ in which he interview some of the people who have inspired him through the years. The goal is to find out how these people were able to overcome different types of adversity so that others may be able to glean ways in which they can themselves make it through difficult times. Jay hopes to utilize the time that he has to focus on ways to be the best person he can be on dialysis. He wants to be the best dad he can be to his daughter Lizzie and prove to her – and to himself – that he can “make it” the same way that AVIM inspirational speakers have overcome their challenges.
This is Cornelius Barker’s story:
Cornelius grew up in an abusive household until age 11, when he confronted his stepfather and was put in the street. To survive, Cornelius joined a gang and slept in a local park until one day, an elderly woman stopped by his park bench. It was raining and she tapped him with her umbrella. In her broken English, heavy with an Italian accent, the woman invited him in to her home for a meal and a dry place to sleep. One night turned into a week, the week turned into a month, and slowly, as his trust grew, Cornelius allowed himself to feel safe, and eventually, loved unconditionally.
That’s not to say that the roof over his head came with no conditions; the woman insisted upon good manners, that Cornelius be respectful, and that he to go to school. It took some time, but gradually he adjusted to this new way of living. Cornelius became a basketball star in high school and college in Jersey City, NJ. He went on to become a teacher and later High school vice principal for 35 years. Cornelius also started a Creative dramatics summer program for inner-city youth which became the basis for his motivational assembly programs. He uses “lessons from the street “ to help youth avoid the same mistakes he made and to re-evaluate their existences and make better choices.
Cornelius L. Barker is presently a much sought-after lecturer for school and community groups on the subject of current cognitive and behavioral trends exhibited by today’s youth. In addition to his years as a classroom teacher and as administrator in both elementary and secondary schools, Cornelius has shared his message in over 25 states, touching the hearts and minds of over 475,000 students, parents, teachers, PTAs and more.
In his retirement, Cornelius also works with juveniles and young adults in an urban prison system using his extensive experience in research and lecture with that population to reach, teach and motivate his students to embrace education as a catalyst for restored hope and adoption of an altered perspective, and hopefully, a changed life.
“Cornelius was a wonderful keynote for our Youth Leadership Conference and the students truly enjoyed him. It was great to see him incorporate our six core elements of character and leadership: integrity, respect, responsibility, citizenship, caring and fairness, into his speech.” – Officials aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid
Today, Cornelius is a retired educator an ordained minister with a doctorate in theology. He delivers motivational lectures that help students re-evaluate themselves and their interaction with peers. He also lectures to school and community groups on the topic of cognitive & behavioral trends exhibited by today’s youth.