Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Harlem; it’s where I went to school, played basketball, all of that. At age 16, I got caught up in things that led me to Rikers Island. I came out after 1 year and was working towards doing something good with my life, but got caught up again — everyone that I knew was arrested — and that’s when I went to prison upstate, where I spent 25 months.
What was that experience of being upstate like for you?
Being upstate is strange because you have an odd feeling of being free — you can move and walk around freely — but at the same time, you aren’t truly free. You sit inside this room, and you can walk around, watch TV, make food, anything, but there’s the door and you can’t just walk out of it. It’s a weird feeling being in a situation like that and knowing, “I’m locked up and I’m not going home until this date.” That was a different type of learning experience. Ever since I got out, I just want to work to make myself better and do something with my life.
What led you to GOSO?
A friend of mine had been going to GOSO, so I knew someone that went here and he always talked about it. I was on parole at the time, and my parole officer kept being insistent that I get a job, even though I only had a short time remaining on parole. My friend told me to come here, and so I made the decision to sign up. I’ve been happy I made that decision ever since.
Do you have any future plans for school or career?
I do want to go to college later on — for marketing or advertising —but right now I’m focusing on my career. I work in construction for the Local 79 labor union. I’m currently working at the Sony building on 55th Street and Madison Avenue. It can be a challenge at times, but with GOSO’s help and training, I feel really confident in my abilities on a construction site.
What do you like the most about your career?
After my release, I started to train really hard to work in construction, I did different internships, and I’m grateful for the position with Local 79 that I got through GOSO. I was just focused on preparing myself for whatever opportunity that would come my way. Before this, I worked at a copy shop, which was a good experience, but it wasn’t a career for me. I definitely see construction as something I would do long-term.
What do you like about GOSO?
They help everyone out — anyone who comes in here, and who needs help. They help them get work, go to school, they have food for people to eat. It’s just a comfortable environment that people want to come back to.
As a LIT Ambassador, what do you want to provide to the younger and newer participants here at GOSO?
I wanted to join the Leaders in Training (LIT) program because I thought it was a good opportunity for someone like me to get more involved and invested with what’s going on at GOSO. I love being able to meet new people through my involvement; talking with them, knowing what they’re going through, seeing them do some of the same things I used to do when I was younger. I know I can help to motivate and inspire them; I let them know that people do actually make it through this program and make something out of themselves.
Do you have any advice you want to share?
I just always say, stay focused. Time flies by you. Before I went to prison someone told me that 2 years is not a long time and it would go by quickly. But when I was in prison, it felt like a long time. After I got back out, 2 years goes by so quickly. You have to pay attention to things, or else you’ll miss something because time goes by so fast.
At some point in your life, you have to learn how to manage your time so you can use that time to keep moving forward. Don’t waste time. That’s something that I never wanted to happen to me. I never wanted to be sitting in one position one year, and be in the same place two years later. I never want to look back and say “I wish I did this, I wish I did that.” I want to actually make those things happen.