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BETHANY, W.Va. – It’s not difficult to spot Jalen Best-Payton walking across the Bethany College campus.

Jalen Best-Payton Oop!He sports clothing of his own design – jackets, shoes, jeans, masks, etc. – and his style and Oop! brand is beginning to catch on.

So far, he has merchandise in 10 states and the District of Columbia, and he recently received Bethany’s Wes Wagner Award, which recognizes academic accomplishment, outstanding artistic ability, and exceptional creativity.

“Nothing I make is exactly the same,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, something may look similar all designs are one of one. Everything is handcrafted with fabric paint and anything else I can use that’ll work on fabric.”

Think lose fabric, patches, and buttons.

His designs are sold primarily through his Instagram account, @oopbyjay.

The beauty of Oop! is it has multiple meanings.

Just one example, he said, is an expression after an accident that leads to good or bad results.

But Oop! has grown into an acronym: Opportunity Over Power.

“Basically you can have all the power in the world, but if opportunity comes knocking at the door and someone else opens, the blessings behind that door will definitely bless someone else,” Best-Payton said.

Jalen Best-Payton Oop! JacketBest-Payton hopes his entrepreneurial story can serve as an inspiration to others, because, as he explains, he’s lucky to be here at all.

He was born in New Bern, N.C., and grew up in his grandparents’ house. When his dad was killed in car crash when Best-Payton was 5, he, his mother, and his brother moved to Maryland for a fresh start.

But it wasn’t a seamless transition. They lived at his godparents’ house until his mom could afford a place of their own. The family lived paycheck to paycheck, and one day, Best-Payton, returned home and found all of their belongings outside. They were evicted.

“Long story short, my family has struggled, and we’ve been below rock bottom, to the point where we had to sleep in the car at various rest areas for about a month,” he said.

He credits his mom for getting them through.

“What makes me different is most people I grew up around in my area, with backstories kind of similar to mine, were drug dealers or getting money the wrong ways, because they hated living the way that they do and they want immediate change,” he said. “I wanted change too, but I also trust my mother will all my heart, and I knew at the end, if stayed focused on my priorities and did what she needed me to do, then she’d pull through, and that’s always been the case. It actually still is.”

Then, while a junior in high school, Best-Payton’s heart stopped beating for two minutes.

“So, I’m a young student-athlete and I always been conditioned, so you wouldn’t think anything would be wrong with my heart, right?” he said. “Once the doctors got my heart beating again, they couldn’t figure out why it happened in the first place.

Jalen Best-Payton Oop! 2He was taken by medical helicopter to a D.C. hospital. After several tests, he was diagnosed with Brugada syndrome, a rare disease that disrupts the heart’s rhythm. According to Cedars-Sinai, Brugada syndrome affects 5 of 10,000 people worldwide.

Ultimately, he underwent surgery to have a pacemaker implanted.

The device allowed him to continue his athletic career, and he is a long-stick midfielder on the Bison lacrosse team.

“God has a plan for me, so I am going to continue down the road I’m on right now, because I feel as though my time is coming,” he said. “It’s literally only a matter of time before I shine.”

Best-Payton has been invited to visit with Bethany Trustee Bill Strickland, president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corp., which serves a center for education and culture in Pittsburgh and includes the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild.

Best-Payton recently passed his comprehensive exams, and, on May 8, he will graduate with a degree in psychology. But he plans to continue his artistic endeavors and Oop! after graduation, even though it was an unexpected path.

In fact, Oop! was an accident of sorts.

After ruining a pair of all-white shoes, Best-Payton asked a former basketball teammate, Liam Davis, to design them. When Davis didn’t have the time, he gave his friend the paint, and a brand was born.

When Best-Payton was a sophomore, Oop! began with a sweatshirt, a hat, and two pairs of shoes.

He wanted clothing that was different and affordable, and he prides himself on turning his orders around in a timely fashion. Along the way, a few accidents turned into “perfect mistakes.” Best-Payton originally intended for Oop! to be Oops, but ran out of room for the “S.”

“An ‘Oop!’ moment, itself,” he said.

Recently, he created a jacket that incorporated sensory design to help with anxiety.

“Over time, I just kept improving my craft, and now I have something very special on my hands,” he said. “But the best thing about me is I’m still improving. … Everything is handcrafted, and that’s what makes it unique … I’ve been to a lot of places, and I have to come across some fashion that looks and feels like mine. So, I’m just going to keep on perfecting my craft and see if I can catch the right eye.”

ABOUT BETHANY COLLEGE

Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.