Today I’d like to talk about one of my students named Chris. He was like many of my other students – in his early 30s, from a disadvantaged neighborhood, and spending his life in and out of prisons. When I first met Chris, we had a long conversation about what he wanted out of life. He shared with me how he had just finished a 4-year prison sentence and how tired he was – tired of his life on the street and needing to make a change for his kids.
I hear this often but there was something different about Chris. In spite of his background, he was calm, sincere and was willing to ask me (someone he just met) for help. As a student at JobTrain, he definitely struggled as school is a big adjustment compared to the instant gratification of the streets, but he stuck with it. I could tell that in spite of his past experiences, he had a core of being thoughtful and genuine that naturally surfaced.
We had many conversations about him struggling with change. He had no support at home and many times wanted to quit. I told him I couldn’t let him quit and that as long as he kept coming to training, I would be his support. I said, “Let’s prove them wrong.” That was the first time I ever saw him smile.
So why was this student so different from all the others? Because I didn’t get the chance to finish helping him. Two months ago in April 2015, he was gunned down at a party by a jealous man over a girl. Lives wasted. As I sit here at his funeral, wearing all white at the request of his family, I can’t help but think, my students are, in a sense, my family and family is important to help anyway we can.