Exavier Pope owns The Pope Law Firm. He is a Sports & Entertainment Attorney, Media Personality, Fortune 500 Speaker and Peak Performance Strategist, Writer, Economic Developer, and former foster youth. Exavier shared his amazing story for our National Foster Care Awareness Month blog series on teen males.
Exavier’s foster mother, Emma Lily Mitchell, declared to him that it was his “God given right and destiny to become someone of great influence to impact change.” Exavier’s father was a pimp and his mother was a prostitute. Exavier, his twin sister, and older brother entered Ms. Mitchell’s home when Exavier was six weeks old. They remained in Ms. Mitchell’s care until Exavier was seven years old. Between the ages of seven and nine years old, they lived in an abusive home with their biological mother. At nine years old the children requested to return to Ms. Mitchell’s home and their request was granted.
Exavier has been living on his own since the age of 14 after Ms. Mitchell’s death. Although Ms. Mitchell had opened her home to countless people, no one “came to her aid to protect her children and her legacy after her death.” Exavier and his sister cared for themselves and Ms. Mitchell’s adult daughter and two grandsons all three of whom were mentally and physically handicapped. Exavier described his high school education as his foster mother’s last gift to him. Although he moved from friend’s home to friend’s home, his education at one of Chicago’s best public high schools allowed him to escape his daily condition. He attended a school with the children of politicians and athletes where high standards, excellence, and higher education were the norm. For two years no one knew the vulnerable family was without parental/adult supervision. Exavier was afraid that if his situation were made known he would end up in a group home or detention center or even worse.
Exavier graduated high school and enrolled in college at Iowa State University. He had been in survival mode since Ms. Mitchell’s death and had never allowed himself to grieve. His freshman year of college was filled with skipping classes and partying to forget the pain and sadness he was feeling. He continued to move forward.
Although his foster mother was a respectable woman who stressed education, Exavier was ashamed that he was in foster care. He would make up stories about his background. While in law school, Exavier applied for and received a scholarship and was able to meet Victoria Rowell. Exavier did not know about horrific foster care statistics or the struggles of other youth in care, he was only aware of his private pain. When Exavier shared his story with the attendees of the awards ceremony he was surprised to receive such positive feedback. He decided to continue to share his story because he believes when we achieve success we should reach back to help others.
Exavier has always turned negative influences into positive motivation. At age 19, Exavier was living in a crime and gang ridden neighborhood with a family member. He was asked to sell drugs. He says he prayed, returned the crack, and six months later he was back in college. When Exavier’s “friends” excluded him from the journey to attend the Million Man March in Washington, DC because they didn’t believe he could achieve their level of success he decided to prove them wrong by attaining two degrees instead of one. He possesses a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance. When a college Admissions Officer tried to deter him from applying to his law school of choice, he ignored her “warnings” and six months later was enrolled in the Rutgers University jump start program where he attained his law degree.
Exavier has been a mentor since the age of twenty. He is also a motivational speaker who is currently rewarding ten young men with a trip to a Chicago Cubs baseball game. This outing is the result of an evolution of a relationship that began when Exavier spoke at their school. The connection continued on Twitter. The purpose goes well beyond sports. Exavier takes his role of mentor seriously and believes in exposing youth to new opportunities. Exavier believes that “when you put big ideas on problems you can effect change and create solutions.” He helps young people discover what they want to do, nurture the skills and talents needed to succeed, and point them on the right path to achieve their goals.
Exavier shares his story today because he believes people need to know about someone who has walked in their shoes. One question Exavier asks all youth he speaks to is “Why do you think I’m here?” The answer from the lawyer in the business suit is always the same. “Because I love you”, he tells them. His love and sincerity break down barriers and young people can relate to this young successful man because he began where they are.
Exavier is a social media champion who uses the power of modern social media to bridge gaps. He spreads a daily message of love, positivity, and expectation on Facebook and Twitter. He truly believes that when we “change our minds we can change our conditions.” During his childhood, Exavier would draw pictures of himself in a suit standing next to high rise buildings. He did not realize that he was literally drawing his future. “Our outward reality becomes what our expectation is”, he told me. Exavier’s life today reflects what he expected as a child.
Exavier says it was the love of his foster mom that propelled him to succeed in life. He did not grow up with a father but found a mentor who helped fill that void. I was not having a particularly good day when Exavier called me for our interview. In fact, he called me a day early. By the end of our telephone call I was feeling like myself again and motivated to keep pressing forward. I realized the purpose of our schedule “mix-up”.
Exavier truly walks the talk. When I asked how we can best support teen males in foster care he replied “by realizing they are children.” He encourages us to remember that teen males need love, time, and care. When we view them as children it is easier to love and care about them.
Exavier now has a wonderful family and serves his community. He reconciled with his biological mother when he was 22 years old. She now performs humanitarian work in Africa. Exavier challenges us to live by his mantra and be a “beacon of hope and life for every person you meet”.
Nicki Sanders, MSW, Chief Visionary Officer
The Teen Toolbox provides youth portfolio development and civic engagement and academic enrichment opportunities to help teens set goals for life after high school and create a road map to reach those goals through its PACKAGED FOR SUCCESS™ Programs.