“You would think, ‘Man, there’s no way he’s ever gonna sell dope again.’ But then you’re thrown right back into the same environment.” 

When you don’t know anything else, you’re going to do what you see in front of you. So that’s what I did…..Where I grew up, everybody that looked like me, almost everybody I knew, were doing what I was doing – they were selling drugs, getting locked up, all of that. I didn’t know anything else.

It was my brother who helped snap me out of everything I was into. He was doing something completely different. He had gotten married and he was faithful to her. He was faithful to the Lord. I hadn’t seen anything like that before. It was mind blowing for me.

Through the grace of God, I ended up going to church with my brother one day, and I remember this overwhelming feeling of determination. I remember thinking, “I’m going to do something different with my life. I have to.”

The problem was my environment, the people I hung around with and the lack of resources that were available to me. Hands down, those things made my life a lot harder, but the biggest problem was myself. I knew I needed to make a change.

After that day, I’ve been running forward. I’ve been married faithfully for twelve years. I’m raising children, I have an 18-year-old, an 11-year-old and a 5-year-old. They’ll never have to experience what I experienced.

Now I see my kids growing up and I think about my own time growing up, I wondered what could have stopped me from ever holding that first bag of dope in my hand. Or hanging around with the wrong crowd. Or ever looking through the bars of a jail cell.

That’s why I started working at Mission: St. Louis. They’re the ones doing the things in my community that would have stopped a kid like me from ever spending a night in jail.

In Job & Leadership Training, we connect guys in the program with mentors. Even though a JLT guy might not have a male role model in their home, they’ll find one in the JLT program. The mentors build relationships with the students and the mentors are there when a guy might feel like he’s slipping back into bad habits.

At Mission: St. Louis, we also create resources. I sold dope because I didn’t have any other way to make as much money as I did selling drugs. Mission: St. Louis connects JLT guys with internships, jobs and new networks, so they can get jobs that provide a good income but are also legal and sustainable.

We’re empowering men…we’re not giving anything away. Because of that, your impact is a long-term impact. It doesn’t fade away over night.

By creating opportunities and resources, our JLT guys can run after that. Then we put people in their lives that run after those things beside them. I’m not someone who claims to be from the city and has now made it out. I’m from the city, I’ve made it out, but I choose to still be a part of it.

When you partner with Mission: St. Louis, you impact one person, who impacts an entire household. That household changes a community, and a community can change a city. That’s what it means to partner with Mission: St. Louis.