After years of crime and violence, more than a dozen young men were given a second chance when they walked across a graduation stage on Friday.
Eighteen young men graduated from D.C.'s Pathways for Young Adults Program in Northeast D.C.
The 9-week program helps prior offenders reintegrate themselves into the workplace. It aims to decrease criminal justice involvement and improve the outcomes of those most likely to be the victim or perpetrator of a violent crime, according to the Office of Neighborhood and Safety.
Gerald Turner, a Pathways graduate, had been shot, arrested, and taken to jail in the past. His experiences made it difficult to see the road ahead.
“I never even thought about the future. It was always live for today … never really thinking about where I would be if I was still locked up,” Turner said.
Through mental health services, education, workforce development and leadership training, Turner is preparing to launch his own business.
“I always had the thoughts and dreams of starting my own business and aspirations of being this huge gardener in the community and things of that nature, but I didn’t have the push or focus of how to do it or where to start at,” Turner said.
Robert Lassiter, another graduate, said he also lacked the tools to be successful at first. Lassiter later received the program’s outstanding ambassador award with dreams of starting his own clothing line.
“I’m much more clear-headed, much more focused and determined to win,” Lassiter said.
Del McFadden, executive director of the office of neighborhood safety and engagement, said that he's seen an apprent change for the men.
“Their walk is different, their spirit is different. Now they want to give back,” McFadden said.
Each Pathways member will begin six months of subsidized employment after graduation.
More than 90% of its graduates are gainfully employed and only one person has re-offended, the program reported.