Dr. Coleman brings inspiration through Flight School
When I first met with Dr. Victor Coleman Jr. outside of the Mott Branch Library, he insisted that I call him “Victor” rather than “Dr. Coleman.” The owner of the VJ Coleman Flight School doesn’t want his title to become a barrier for making connections, though he is very proud of his educational achievements.
“As a former gang-member-turned-drug-dealer who now has a PhD, I’ve had a journey. I remember getting arrested for stealing cars, for gang activity, for drugs,” Coleman said. After becoming a father, he knew he’d have to make a change. “I had to look at myself in the mirror and address some things within myself.”
It’s Coleman’s difficult past that has allowed him to be successful as a motivational speaker, mentor and advocate for young people— especially for young men. That’s why, in 2010, he created Flight School, a program that involves student outreach, retreats and creative outlets to help participants reach their potential.
Beating the odds
In his youth, Coleman always wanted to be a musician, but his family didn’t have the means to afford lessons or an instrument. Instead, he turned to poetry and rap as a form of creative expression, which led him to study entertainment business for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He soon discovered that it would take a move to L.A. or New York to make a successful career out of entertainment. Frustrated, he eventually grew to find not only solace, but inspiration, in what he could accomplish in Toledo. It didn’t happen overnight. First he had to overcome the voices in his head trying to convince him that he couldn’t hack it.
“People will tell you, you’ll be dead or in jail by the time you’re 21, you’re just a baby daddy or baby mamma, things like that,” Coleman says. “The mouth is so powerful. When you’re young and hear it from an adult, you receive that as the whole truth. For me, I began to act that out and finally had to say, ‘Wait a minute.’ I wrote myself a life sentence based on someone else’s opinion of me.”
There were times, when he noticed he stood out, that he wanted to give up on his PhD in business management. “Everyone talked differently than I did, they were all dressed differently,” he said. “It was during that time that my research developed. I remember realizing how understudied minority mentoring was.”
Coleman’s eventual goal is to consult with organizations, creating a city-wide mentoring program where business leaders work with inner city youth. He feels that there needs to be a higher level of awareness for white mentors working with minorities, specifically. He also wants to take his message of overcoming the odds to at-risk youth, which is where his motivational speaking platform, Flight School, comes into play. It teaches participants to “grab the paper and pen — tell your life’s story.”
Ready for takeoff
Along with public speaking, Flight School offers a Brutha to Brother retreat (scheduled for fall of 2020) to address the issues young men face and how to move beyond those issues. Coleman says it’s all about networking, finding a mentor and engaging in volunteer work— the trifecta for success that he continues to live by.
Contribute to Flight School by purchasing apparel at letstakeflight.com. All proceeds go toward helping young people make their life goals a reality. Contact Coleman about motivational speaking, his research and philanthropy, or simply to chat about facing your own barriers via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.