Your past Does Not Determine Who You Are      

All I could remember was seeing the sun slowly creeping through the clouds as the officers put the handcuffs on me and escorted me to the back of the police car. I did not understand it then but being arrested and charged with several accounts would save my life. Life is full of experiences that will teach you lessons that you can either learn from or overlook. I chose to learn from every experience after this defining moment in my life. After that night, walking through doors took on a new meaning in my life and there are 3 doors that have made the biggest impact in my life: the Courthouse, the Regional Youth Detention Center and Goshen New Beginnings. 

The first door that I entered that made a big impact on my life was the door to the County Courthouse in November 2014. As a thirteen-year-old, African American young man, just the idea of facing a judge with such serious charges is terrifying. Yet, four months after being charged, I had to appear in court and meet face to face with a judge, as she would be the one to give me my official sentencing. I walked to the podium and looked up at her. She stopped, stared into my eyes and said,

“You are too young, and it is not too late for you to turn your life around, but you have to want it. I can’t want it more than you.”

She reduced my sentence and added a stipulation that with good behavior I could be released early to a program into the community. After that moment, I decided to change and break the cycle of my family going in and out of jail. 

The second door that I had to walk through that had a major influence on my life was the Regional Youth Detention Center. From the moment I walked into the RYDC, I realized that I never wanted to come back to a place like that. I saw young men get into fights and get beat up. Everything at the RYDC reminded me of what I wanted to get away from; gangs, fights, criminal activity, and pain. After being at the RYDC for three years, I finished my sentencing and was given the chance to go to a program that would help me achieve my goals. I went to a few programs, but it was not until I went to Goshen that I felt a true sense of family and acceptance. 

In July 2019, I entered through the third door that has helped shape me into the young man I am today, though I am still growing and evolving. Goshen New Beginnings is an independent living program that supports youth like me. I needed someone to believe in me and see past my story. I needed a group of people to believe in my dreams. I needed people that saw my pain but would help me work through the pain and not give up on me. I am so blessed to have found a community that has accepted me and is providing me with the tools I need to become better. I want to do better because I know that, typically people with my story end up back in jail or dead, and that will not be my ending. 

Six years ago, the chapters to my story were ugly and sad, but today I can proudly say that my past will not determine who I am or where I am headed. I have spent countless nights praying and asking God to help me turn my life around and show me the correct path to take. God has surrounded me with people who care about me, but I have learned that I need to do the work – for my past not to determine my future. My thought process, goals, and decision- making need to change, because it all starts with me, and I am worth it. Life is full of doors, and I will continue to open doors to new opportunities, happiness, and a story full of change, grace and second chances.