At 18 years old I was playing with a handgun and I accident shot and killed my friend. I lost my friend and as far as I was concerned my life was over.

I had come back to my home for Thanksgiving to see my mother for the holidays. At that time I was working for the F.B.I as a clerk. I was planning to attend college and start my adult life.

Subsequently I was sentenced to 8-20 years. I ended up serving 10. But during my incarceration something happened. I was never involved in any sort of criminal behavior but I was not motivated about my life and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. Sure I worked for the FBI and was planning to go to college but I was a slacker.

But in prison something clicked in terms of being an active participant in my own life and taking ownership of the process. I was always talented academically but I didn’t live up to my potential. I began to read everything I could get my hands on. I went to every academic program (in particular computer class). I could attend and I attended them multiple times in the years that followed. When college was offered in prison through Saint Francis College of Loretto I was one of the first students to attend. I ended up graduating with an Associate Degree with honors.

Through education I learned what I wanted my life to be. It’s funny how things work. But when I was released from prison, I went further. I applied to NYU and was accepted. I graduated from NYU with BS with cum laude honors. I didn’t stop there though. I went on and earned my MSW with distinction from NYU as well. I am now a practicing social worker in NYC and every day I give back to society in positive and life affirming ways.

Many of my friends would no doubt be shocked to learn of my incarceration and I often wonder would they understand. In many ways much of my life is a secret and it’s a burden that I have to bear. But it’s mine to bear and I take full responsibility. I use it to help others realize their dreams and goals and honor my friend’s memory.

I wrote this because I know there are probably many others like me who made mistakes in their lives that set them way off course from their expectations and hopes for themselves. I want to say to them that you can do it. You can make the life you dream of. It’s never too late to make a new start and reclaim your life. Someone once told me that no matter what happens morning will come and you will see the sunshine.

I am basking in the light of the sun.

Never give up!