“I was moved from county to county, to different prisons. I kept getting in trouble. It just tore me up, and I lost my sense of vision. I didn’t know where I was going. I was lost and I felt like I wasn’t getting back out.”
He eventually made parole, but his relationship with his kids was already too damaged. They wouldn’t speak to him.
“That woke me up as a man.”
On parole, he started to apply for fast food jobs, then a friend put him in touch with 4:13 Strong, a United Way funded partner. They operate a months-long residential program that supports men after they have been incarcerated.
“I get excited every time I talk about it. 4:13 Strong saved my life,” he says.
4:13 Strong’s program equipped him with the skills he needed to change his life—forever. He started the program with a week of tryouts, or physical and mental conditioning. Then he moved on to the 40-day challenge, where he spent each day in the classroom working on financial literacy, work readiness and construction skills training classes. He visited job sites, earned three construction-industry certifications and did service projects on the weekends. After the 40 days, he felt equipped with the right job skills and certifications and found full-time employment. With a steady paycheck and a new mindset, he was able to work toward buying a car with cash and saving an emergency fund.
“The little things that matter, which most people don’t think about: They helped me get my license, insurance. I got a great job. I got eight raises in one year. Those people are like a family now. If something goes on, I call these guys before I call my family now.”
He said he used to tell his friends in the program about this pain inside, that he’d be driving down the street and would cry uncontrollably. A friend in the program told him that once he started accomplishing his goals, that pain would start to go away.
And it did. He began to rekindle his relationship with his kids.
“I missed so much time when they were little—and you can’t get that time back—the only thing you can do is just move forward and do better as a father, as a man. I usually get them every other weekend and I try to get them during the week, pick them up, take them to school. Just try to spend more time with them.”
He went back to church and worked on building a relationship with his mom. He said he even went to people in his life who he had wronged and made amends.
“I feel good about myself inside, outside. I changed my whole image. I changed the way I talk; I changed the way I talk. And, you know, it just feels good inside.”
He says that couldn’t have happened without the support and the friendships he made. They changed his entire mindset.
“As a young man, you’re eventually going to have to change your way of thinking. If you put yourself around positive people, you start to think different; you start to talk different; you start to walk different,” he said. “4:13 Strong is important because a lot of programs don’t work. This one does. It’s not a program where you just go in and after six months you don’t hear from these guys again. I graduated in 2016, and I’m still best friends with these guys. It’s bigger than just a program.”