I come from humble beginnings. Born of a teenage mother who died, I found myself on the streets of Bogota Colombia. At age 3, I was adopted from an orphanage and brought to the US. My parents did their best to undo the trauma I suffered with compassion and attention. They had their hands full because I was street raw. Fighting, stealing, and disconnect had become my survival strategy. The added language barrier made things even tougher
Being brown and raised in Woburn MA in the late 70's presented many struggles and challenges. Even in the face of national change, racism was alive and well. My saving grace was my ability to excel in athletics which made me an asset at times and not a complete write off to most. In spite of the dislike, I suffered from my peers, I drove forward with determination and purpose. It resulted in me earning my Eagle Scout badge at 12 years old, Boy's State and Hugh O'Brian Youth representative for a private prep school, varsity athlete, student council president, Mass All Star Athlete, a 4 year academic scholarship to college, and enlisted appointment to West Point.
Life was set for me...
Then on a cold winter night in Germany while stationed in the military, my life forever changed. Racism had reared its ugly head but I failed to do as I had done a hundred maybe a thousand times before...walk away. When all was said and done, I found myself serving a life sentence under military law for murder. I had shamed my country, family, and self.
Yet in all of this, I knew one fact: God had not saved me from the streets of Bogota to die in a prison cell half way across the world. I became determined, discovered true faith and sought every opportunity for growth; be it a conversation, book, or experience. Seven prisons and 15 years later, I emerged a reborn man. Throughout my incarceration, I began to learn the meaning of love and compassion. While inside, I saw the devastating effect of poverty, drugs, lack of education, and low self-esteem. I lived with the sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, and friends all of whom became less then they deserved and less than they were capable. I saw the children grow up in the visiting rooms without the father figure; just waiting to become a statistic. It became my mission to help all those I could begin to change the way they saw themselves, their place in the world, and their impact.
As Director of Training, Catering, and Wholesale for Haley House Inc., I continue those efforts. I know that if we invest in one another as a community, beautiful things can happen. We have thousands of men and women coming home that can contribute greatly to shaping of families, our community and our economy. Many come home with incredible enthusiasm and drive. Most just need support and an opportunity to become part of their own (our) solution. As we RISE as individuals, each of us have the power to bring great change. Trust in God and the abilities that he has given each one of us. When we commit to being part of a larger conversation, we can and will redefine our world!
What aspirations do you have for your community?
We must find the courage to believe in ourselves. Hope for us is the key! When we discover hope for more, for better, then we can begin to find the strength to move. When we move, others will follow. When all are involved, change begins!
What is one thing you can do to help end poverty?
I will continue to assist those as they seek to RISE professionally and personally.
Which personal accomplishment are you most proud of?
In spite of all the challenges I made for myself (and those put in front of me by others), I never quit. Today, I am a proud man, father of 5, loving husband, community visionary, leader.