Product of my Environment
Truth be told, I don’t want to say that I’m just like you because we’re all different and unique in our own way. Honestly, some have said that I’m worse than most. They’ve said things like, “Jerel, you’re possessed by demon.” or things like “Death is following you.” In my youth I fused with these destructive thoughts in my mind. I believed that this is what my life was supposed to be like. I have a few memories of a time when I was like you. But that was before the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, drug and sexual abuse. That was before the scenes of homicides, drug-dealing, robberies that engulfed my community, spilled over into my life. I had no guidance.
School? Please! Who needs school when you’re tossing and turning at night because your stomach hurts from hunger? As a young teen, I had to make a choice. One that would alter the course of my destiny. A choice that would help my brothers and my mother. I chose a life of crime. College and the hopes of playing ball was just too long to wait. You know how this story goes.
At the age of 17, I ended up catching my first felony. I was sentenced to prison for five years. If you have ever been sentenced to the Department of Corrections then you can understand what that must have been like for me. All of the unwanted thoughts and feeling you experience. If you haven’t, then I pray earnestly and I will try earnestly to make sure as many of you living in my community never have to experience that.
When I was released from prison, it was the start of a new chapter in my life. I was a lost and self-destructive young man going in but coming out, alI l had was a vision of the man I truly wanted to be. This wasn’t enough. I was still lost but no longer self-destructive. Even though I was ready for change, I didn’t know how. This put me at risk of self-destructing again. Out on probation, I struggled to find my way back into society. What I found was myself drinking and using drugs again. I had the most precious woman, and I lost her because of the abuse and drugs. I ended up violating my probation and found myself incarcerated again. The judge wanted to send me back to prison, but I was able to get another chance. A chance to figure out my life and that’s what I’m doing just like you are.
Another Chance In Life
Honestly, I’ve had many chances in life. This time I won’t blow it. I have a mentor in my life now, who’s helping me. I have real guidance now. Last week, I completed the Writing for the Soul Workshop mentor training required to mentor at-risk and troubled teens here in my community. I can’t help but wonder how my life would have turned out if only I’d had a mentor at your age. My story has some unhappy chapters, but it isn’t the end. In fact, my story has no ending at all. Because I’m still writing it. We all have a story to tell. This is mine.
Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Program
Writing for the Soul Workshop™ offers communities an amazing resource for Justice Reinvestment, with a strong focus on changing behavior and empowering our at risk youth and young adults. Unlike many other programs that are more focused on manual skills, like trash pick up or graffiti removal, our program offers a way for at risk youth to improve their writing, become published authors, plus having the ability to immediately earn income to help with their fines and restitution. Our program offers immediate results that lead to life long behavior change, and new skills to break the cycle of poverty and entanglement with the justice system.
How You Can Help
The writing program has been effective in schools, churches, Boys & Girls Club, and various other organizations. The impact is the same everywhere we go: many begin the healing process from whatever pain they’re feeling inside. They stop cutting, selling drugs, being promiscuous, bullying, and most importantly, they develop a love of writing to help them process all of their experiences in a healthy way.
Writing for the Soul Workshop™ is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non‐profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Writing for the Soul Workshop™ are tax‐deductible to the extent permitted by law. Who knows. Your donation could be the one that help us to prevent another teen suicide. Click here to make a secure online donation.