Faces of UCM: Anthony Portis

PHOTO+BY+BRANDON+BOWMAN+%2F+PHOTO+EDITOR%0AAnthony+Portis%2C+freshman+construction+management+major%2C+stands+tall+in+his+homemade+stilts+Tuesday+in+front+of+the+Elliott+Student+Union.

PHOTO BY BRANDON BOWMAN / PHOTO EDITOR Anthony Portis, freshman construction management major, stands tall in his homemade stilts Tuesday in front of the Elliott Student Union.

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By BETHANY SHERROW
Assistant News Editor
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — What started as a hobby with a friend, making bracelets, became a form of art one student weaved to financially support himself as a homeless St. Louis teenager.

PHOTO BY BRANDON BOWMAN / PHOTO EDITOR Anthony Portis, freshman construction management major, stands tall in his homemade stilts Tuesday in front of the Elliott Student Union.
PHOTO BY BRANDON BOWMAN / PHOTO EDITOR
Anthony Portis, freshman construction management major, stands tall in his homemade stilts Tuesday in front of the Elliott Student Union.

Anthony Portis, a freshman construction management major, is a first-generation high school graduate who’s looking to continue is education at the college level. Getting to college, however, wasn’t an easy journey.
“Selling these (bracelets) was my main means of supporting myself,” he said.
Portis is often seen walking around campus on stilts, but he’s been using his stilts for years. He learned how to make his own stilts from a childhood friend in the Boy Scouts Troop 284, back before he became homeless.
After building his own stilts, Portis faced a few falls.
“It’s a long fall, but if you know how to fall, it’s not too bad,” Portis said. “A lot of people think it’s really difficult because they’re afraid to fall. I would say, just try it.”
Walking on his stilts up and down the Delmare Loop in St. Louis, which he describes as being similar to the Vegas strip, Portis said he would sell the paracord bracelets. The business has grown to become known as Aj’s Paracord Designs.
From black and dark ocean cobra-styled bracelets to glow-in-the dark thread, Portis sold and continues to sell paracord bracelets in a variety of colors and designs. Paracord bracelets are made from lightweight material originally used in suspension lines for parachutes. He weaves all the bracelets himself.
With money that he made, Portis was able to take another homeless man to a St. Louis restaurant and treat him to dinner.
“We talked for a little while,” Portis said. “I told him my story and he told me his. He started crying in front of me. It warms your heart to be able to do something good for somebody even if you don’t have a lot yourself.”
Portis reflected on that encounter and realized when people give their time, it’s more beneficial than a dollar bill. His advice to college students who don’t have much to give because of their own financial situation is to just listen to those in need.
“A lot of them just want somebody to talk to – somebody to care,” Portis said. “Even if it’s just like 50 cents you can give, or helping by looking up a place for them to stay on your phone, that helps.”
Portis said the experience of being homeless made him see the world through a different lens.
“I saw how people look down on other people when they don’t have as much as they do,” Portis said. “I saw it from their side.”
Portis’ experiences of being homeless and creating his own bracelet business have led him to realize his goals for the future.
“I want to become financially stable and hopefully start my own construction business,” he said.
Portis also plans to start some sort of nonprofit organization. He is particularly interested in helping autistic children and homeless youth.
“My little brother is autistic and I’ve seen him in and out of schools,” Portis said.
He said he hopes to have an organization that helps support autistic students so they don’t face the same circumstances his brother did.
When he’s not constructing ideas for his bracelet business or future business endeavors, Portis still enjoys strolling around campus on stilts. He’s even started teaching some friends how to use them.
“Stilts are a good way for people to recognize you,” he said. “It’s a good way to meet people. The high air helps me think better.”