Travis Glasper was in the backseat of a Mazda on I-77 when he saw death coming across the center lane.
“There was a tractor-trailer wheel right beside my window and I knew I was going to die,” said Glasper, 26, of Rock Hill.
The resulting car wreck in 2002 spared his life but left him with a fractured hip and a crushed femur.
Glasper faced more than a year of painful rehabilitation. Even before the wreck, his life was not going well – a lousy student in high school, he had dropped out of college, was unemployed and living at home. He was convinced the wreck was the worst thing that ever happened to him.
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His story, however, is how in less than five years, Glasper has turned the “worst thing” into one of the best things – and is well on his way to becoming a successful entrepreneur and television producer.
“That wreck gave me\ a lot of time to really look at my life and I began to realize I had made some mistakes,” Glasper said. “My hip was killing me and I was laying down when I came up with the idea that there must be other people like me, who had also made mistakes and needed help to get on the right path.”
He said his inspiration was his younger brother, Torrence, who has always looked up to him:
“I was on the road to nowhere, only living in the moment. I could have died without accomplishing anything. I want my brother to soar. How can I help him and others like him?”
Glasper, who got an insurance settlement from the wreck, decided he was not going to waste the windfall of cash. He decided to use the money to produce an educational TV program.
He's aimed it at young people, to help them make better decisions about school, personal finance, work, and relationships. His goal is to create an instruction manual for life, targeted at young adults from 16 to 26.
One of the first things he did was help his brother, Torrence, who was a gifted football player but having a hard time in the classroom.
Glasper paid for his younger brother's tuition at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., where Torrence improved his grades, graduated and earned a partial scholarship at Glenville State College in West Virginia. He's also a freshman defensive back.
“I felt it was something I needed to do. If you are going to help a young person, you need to do it,” Glasper said.
With no experience with TV production, Glasper went to the telephone book and started calling video production studios in Charlotte.
“My friends thought I was crazy, but if there is one thing that I am, it's persistent,” he said. “ I just decided that I would keep calling and keep talking until I found someone to help me film an episode.”
Glasper teamed up with Mindstorm Communications in Charlotte and Bean Street Video Productions in Rock Hill. To date, he has invested about $100,000 of his money and produced an episode about a prospective student who gets caught in a scholarship scam. The 30-minute program – “Here We Go!” – shows shows how a student should go about seeking legitimate scholarship offers and talking with local guidance counselors. Glasper hired actors from local colleges, including Winthrop University.
Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., appears on camera and wrote a letter of endorsement for Glasper and his program. Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., gave a similar endorsement, as well as school superintendents at Clover, York and Rock Hill schools.
Mindstorm officials say the program is slated to air on the S.C. Department of Education's ITV to its 1,100 schools, as well as Distance Education learning centers across the state. Mindstorm is helping Glasper secure corporate sponsors. His eventual goal is to broadcast nationally through PBS and NETA (National Education Television Association).
On a recent afternoon, Glasper was filming a segment at the Rock Hill Galleria mall. He had hired an actress and cameraman. He is the show's founder and executive producer, but typically does whatever is needed to get the shot. On this day he is both actor, producer and the guy handing out water bottles to friends and onlookers.
“We usually don't allow people to film inside the mall, but there's something about Travis – he's charming and persistent, but he's also got a really positive message for young people,” said Allison Cleveland, the Galleria's marketing manager.
She likes the way the show “addresses the real-world life lessons that cannot necessarily be learned from a school book.”