PPLM Pen Pal Letters Written by Students of Barry University BMS Program

Dear future leader,

I cannot put myself in your shoes right now because I have not been where you have been or

seen the things you have seen. Our life experiences may be the complete opposite, or just alike.

Who knows. Either way, I am here to offer some words of encouragement because that’s

something we all can use at some point in our lives.

Someone once said “a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor”. This means that life has its ups

and downs. We don’t always know what life will throw our way and at times life can seem so

unfair, but we have to keep hope and keep the faith in ourselves because our challenges only

make us better. Some may see this as the worst time of their life, but I want you to see this as

time to grow, change and work to becoming the person you want to be. Remember, any

feelings of defeat are only temporary; you can be great. This is only a bump in the road. It does

not have to be your life. Don’t give up on yourself; you are worth it. Find a goal and use this

time to work towards making that goal happen. You can literally do anything you put your mind

to. I know you can do it because I am doing it. We all have the same capabilities to succeed,

despite our circumstances. We just have to overcome those circumstances to make it happen.

Of course, that is easier said than done, but I believe that you can be great. Believe in yourself.

Stay strong.

Sending you light and hope.


Dear Friend,

I am writing to you to send some encouragement your way. Life is sometimes crazy and at

times we end up in places we never even expected to get to. However, the beautiful thing

about it is you have the power to change where you are in life and the person you want to be.

No one in the world is perfect. Everyone has their flaws because that’s what makes us human.

Maybe you feel like it’s all your fault or maybe you feel like it’s all someone else’s fault. I

understand; it may not seem fair. It’s okay to feel upset, hurt, disappointed or even angry, BUT

you have to use those feelings to motivate you to change your life. Don’t get bitter, get better. I

know it can be hard to be where you are right now. I have family members and friends in your

very shoes as we speak. The thing I admire most about them is that they have hope. You have

to have hope. Don’t give up on yourself. You can be anything you want to be. I mean anything –

doctor, lawyer, entrepreneur, whatever you set your mind to do. Imagine the life you want

once you have finished your time there. Work towards making that life a reality. Go back to

school if that’s what you need to do. Whatever it is you want to do, just do not give up. There

are too many people who gave up far too soon and regret it. Keep your head up. You can be

great starting today.

Sending you light and hope.


To A Future Leader,

From a person who was once in your situation, please let me inform you on

how essential you are to a better future. You are so full of capabilities and you have

such a beautiful story to tell for future generations. Every experience in your life is a

lesson learned, whether it be a toxic person you removed yourself from or from

making a mistake. From my own experiences, I grew up in a bad neighborhood with

bad influences, I had problems with “fake” friends, I’ve been in handcuffs from being

in so many fights, and I’ve made so many mistakes in my life that I can’t even keep

record of but these struggles have all taught me valuable experiences that have

made me the person I am today. I’m currently in graduate school and applying to be

a medical student so I can be a doctor in the military. Just like you, I had big dreams

and just like you, I had so much going against me but nothing is impossible. You

literally can do anything you want, who says you aren’t capable? If you truly want

something, fight for it and fight hard. Success isn’t given but earned.

I believe in you and I am not the only one. You are not alone, you have

support from so many people but no one can take the first step but you. You have to

make a plan to succeed and strive because I know you will get there. At the end of

the day, what you do is what defines you. You will conquer. You will succeed and

make such a beautiful difference so I encourage you. Be the change you wish to see

in this world.

Sincerely,

A person who believes in you


Dear Mentee,

You might get a lot of letters telling you how special you are and how much of

the world you can conquer but no one can make the first step to success but you.

Everyone has such amazing contributions they can make to better the world and

you definitely have every bit of skills to do so. YOU have what it takes but only YOU

can take that initiative and push to be the best person you can be. We all have our

stories, we all have different obstacles, and we all have our own adversities but our

struggles don’t define us.

If you are unhappy with your current situation, then change it. If you can’t

change it then accept it. However, if you are going to accept it, you should ask if this

is what you want to do for the rest of your life. Are you the best version of yourself

and are you making the world a better place for a brother, a sister, or for your future

children?

We all have made mistakes in our lives but who you are in the end of this

journey is what defines you. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. If you’re going to

do something, make sure you’re going to do it to the best of your abilities. Get up, get

your stuff together, and prove to everyone who has doubted you wrong. Be an

influence, be a leader, be a role model and change lives because YOU know YOU can.

Sincerely,

Someone who was once in your situation


Dear Pen Pal,

I would not be telling you the truth if I said I have never felt alone or helpless or hopeless in a situation. What I can say is that you are extraordinary and you are destined to be someone great. Something amazing was placed in you and you can lead a purposeful life. Despite what is going on around you, what matters is what is going on within you. You have the power to change your life and your circumstances, no matter what others may say. Have faith in yourself, not other people or things. Find your inner peace and work to become the person you were destined to become. Find what it is you were destined to do and go for it. Nothing and no one else can stop you, except for you! You have the power to make it happen. I know some situations may not be your doing and sometimes we find ourselves in places we never thought we would be, BUT use this as an opportunity to become a better person and walk in your life’s purpose. You areloved and you can do whatever you put your mind to. You can change yourself, your situation and your life will have an impact on the world. Make it a positive one!

Sincerely,

Your Pen Pal


Dear Pen Pal,

The worse decision you can make is know that you have a purpose and do nothing with it. What is it that

you want to be known for? What do you want to do? And more importantly, what are you going to do

about it? Our mistakes don’t make us who we are. It is how we respond to our mistakes that help us

build character and become the person we are destined to become. We can’t erase our mistakes, but

we can use them to be better. So, my Pen Pal, my encouraging words to you today are not to despair,

get bogged down or angry for any decision you may have made or any mistake you feel like you can’t

take back. Instead, let it grow you. Let this experience make you better. Dig deep into yourself and see

your full potential, and then go after what you see! I once read something that said, “There is no such

thing as impossible; the word itself says I’m possible”. That means, you can do ANYTHING. You are

worth your own investment. Make that investment in yourself now. Better yourself, read, research,

pursuit the good things in life that matter for your future. Do the things you need to do to uplift yourself

because you are worthy and you can do it!

Sincerely,

Your Pen Pal


Dear Pen Pal,

I know you may be confused about how you got here or what to do next. I don’t know what tomorrow

holds, but I do know who holds tomorrow. You can endure this process. You will get through this stage. I

don’t know if you believe in destiny, but I do. I believe every moment of your life was planned before a

single day passed. And I believe that this can only help you become stronger. There is a plan for your life.

There is a purpose for your life. Brush the dust off and move forward in your life. Do what you have to

do in this stage and prepare to make yourself better. I am telling you that you can endure this process.

Some days may seem hard, I know, but I also know that you can handle it well. Don’t give in to the

surroundings or your circumstances. Don’t allow those who know you the least, shape you the most.

You hold the key to your own future. Pick yourself up. Be encouraged. Life is not over for you. It is only

beginning! There is so much greater in store for you. This part will be over before you know it. What

matters is what you decide to do after this experience. Make your life count. You were placed on this

Earth for a purpose. Find your purpose and work towards it. Be strong and know that you are loved and

that there is someone praying for your success.

Sincerely,

Your Pen Pal


Dear Pen Pal,

Hope means that we look forward in confidence of something good to come. I have hope in you and I

hope that you have hope in yourself and your situation. Believe it or not, your hope has influence in your

life. Your hope in yourself can be the difference between just making it through or coming out

triumphant. Cultivate your belief and your hope that your situation is not the end. You have to keep

telling yourself you can do this. You have to keep telling yourself to keep going, even if you feel there is

no one else telling you the same. I am just here to tell you that you don’t have to worry or be afraid. You

will make it past this. Not only can you make it past this, but you can still accomplish your dreams.

Nothing is impossible for you. You can still be a good person, you can still be a leader, you can still be a

positive influence on others. Become someone your family and friends would be proud of. Begin to

create your legacy now. Your life is so valuable. I hope that you realize all that you are fully capable of.

You are not hopeless and you are not helpless. Your experiences do not make you any less of a person

or any less worthy of a happy, successful and positive life. Make your plan and work towards what you

want to do after this part of your journey. And I hope that in it all you remember good things are going

to come to you. Just have hope.

Sincerely,

Your Pen Pal


Dear Pen Pal,

I know this is probably a tough time and are probably so close to giving up, but I have a few things I want

to tell you: don’t lose faith and don’t become discouraged. You may be discontented but use this as a

time to plan for your future. What do you want to do with your life? You have all the opportunity in the

world. We are so blessed to live in a country where we are afforded opportunities for advancement.

Make the most of this time. Plan for your future. Quitting is not an option now. Use this as your moment

to dream again. Make a vision for how you see your life in the future and make the necessary steps to

make that happen. I know this may seem easier said than done, but start with the small steps. Research

what you want to do with your life and focus on moving yourself in that positive direction. There are so

many options for you. You can be a doctor, an engineer, a small business owner, a motivational speaker,

a talent manager, an accountant, whatever it is that you want to do. Focus on your dream and make it

your reality. Read up on your future path. Take a class. Sign up for a program. Find a mentor who is

doing what it is you want to do with your life. Take whatever steps are necessary to progress yourself

forward. You can’t dwell on what’s happened or whose fault it was; all you can do now is make this time

count for you and not against you. You are young. Anything is possible for you. Dream, believe and

become what it is you envision for yourself to have a better life.

Sincerely,

Your Pen Pal


To my pen pal,

Hey there! It is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to communicate with you. I have faced much

adversity in my personal life and I hope to be a positive light in your life as well as a beacon of hope. I

am here to reassure you that this is all temporary. There is absolutely NOTHING that you are enduring at

the moment that cannot be improved upon. Wherever you feel the slightest ounce of discouragement,

please remember that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Even if the light may be dim for the

time being. Always hold your head high with confidence and understand that one poor decision in life

does not define you as a person. Keep the faith!

“God is out refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” – Psalm 46:1

Sincerely,

Your Pen Pal


Dear young person,

I hope life is treating you better. Life is tough, something I have grown to realize over the

years. No matter how hard you get back up, it will try to knock you down again. That’s why you

must bounce back with a much greater force and keep the momentum going. Never stopping to

look back. I couldn’t be in Grad School studying Biomedical Sciences if it wasn’t for the help of

my mentors, supporting and encouraging me when I was weak. I wasn’t the strongest student in

high school. I made average to below average grades mainly due to lack of focus and motivation.

I eventually graduated and went onto college. My grades slowly improved which sparked a fire

in my mind and I was determined to succeed.

I’ve learned that many things in life require practice and persistence. If you want to excel

at Basketball, Singing, Dancing or any other passion you must put in the time. You will struggle

and fail at first but eventually will become great at your craft. You must push through the initial

struggle phase. It’s the hardest but also the part where you grow and develop. After this phase, it

will get easier and easier and you can perform with second nature. Therefore, it’s important to

start now at a young age developing good habits so they can become a lifestyle for you.

Invest in yourself and this will add value to your life. It can be as small as replacing soda

with water every day or exercising instead of watching a movie. These small adjustments can

have positive impacts on your quality of life. Delve deep inside yourself to find what brings you

joy. Use this as a guide to finding your passion in life. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to

be raw and personal to you. This is where you can find your purpose. You are born with unique

talents. Trial and error helps some discover these gifts while some know right from the start

where their specialty lies. Don’t be afraid to take risks to find your purpose. In the end, it will be

well worth it. Peace of mind will find you. You’ll be fulfilled and satisfied.

Always believe in yourself and develop independence. Don’t rely on the approval of

others but make sure you love yourself so that you won’t depend on a person to love you and

build you up. With patience and time, you will be on your way to reaching your fullest potential.

Sincerely,

A caring Human


PPLM Pen Pal Letter Written by Jamare Hall

JH_

I was once you

I was once you, I was once sad feeling down and blue

I was once in your shoes, I once thought trouble was cool

I was once a product of my environment, not once did I listen, time after time again

I was once in the back of a police car. Yea I once did it, not thinking about the crimes I

committed

I once hurt a family, including mine too, but no one’s perfect even saints make mistakes too

I once hated myself, I once blamed myself, and I continued to play the victim until I forgave

myself

I once ran out of luck, I once remember feeling stuck, I once never realized until time was up

I once been through the struggle and more than once I watched the system take my brothers

I once changed my life and just that ONCE it made a difference, I made better decisions for me. I

was once you, now I have a college degree.

DON’T GIVE UP


PPLM Pen Pal Letters

Dear Mentee,

You might get a lot of letters telling you how special you are and how much of

the world you can conquer but no one can make the first step to success but you.

Everyone has such amazing contributions they can make to better the world and

you definitely have every bit of skills to do so. YOU have what it takes but only YOU

can take that initiative and push to be the best person you can be. We all have our

stories, we all have different obstacles, and we all have our own adversities but our

struggles don’t define us.

If you are unhappy with your current situation, then change it. If you can’t

change it then accept it. However, if you are going to accept it, you should ask if this

is what you want to do for the rest of your life. Are you the best version of yourself

and are you making the world a better place for a brother, a sister, or for your future

children?

We all have made mistakes in our lives but who you are in the end of this

journey is what defines you. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. If you’re going to

do something, make sure you’re going to do it to the best of your abilities. Get up, get

your stuff together, and prove to everyone who has doubted you wrong. Be an

influence, be a leader, be a role model and change lives because YOU know YOU can.

Sincerely,

Someone who was once in your situation


To A Future Leader,

From a person who was once in your situation, please let me inform you on

how essential you are to a better future. You are so full of capabilities and you have

such a beautiful story to tell for future generations. Every experience in your life is a

lesson learned, whether it be a toxic person you removed yourself from or from

making a mistake. From my own experiences, I grew up in a bad neighborhood with

bad influences, I had problems with “fake” friends, I’ve been in handcuffs from being

in so many fights, and I’ve made so many mistakes in my life that I can’t even keep

record of but these struggles have all taught me valuable experiences that have

made me the person I am today. I’m currently in graduate school and applying to be

a medical student so I can be a doctor in the military. Just like you, I had big dreams

and just like you, I had so much going against me but nothing is impossible. You

literally can do anything you want, who says you aren’t capable? If you truly want

something, fight for it and fight hard. Success isn’t given but earned.

I believe in you and I am not the only one. You are not alone, you have

support from so many people but no one can take the first step but you. You have to

make a plan to succeed and strive because I know you will get there. At the end of

the day, what you do is what defines you. You will conquer. You will succeed and

make such a beautiful difference so I encourage you. Be the change you wish to see

in this world.

Sincerely,

A person who believes in you


Dear friend,

I am writing to you to send some encouragement your way. Life is sometimes crazy and at times we end up in places we never even expected to get to. However, the beautiful thing about it is you have the power to change where you are in life and the person you want to be. No one in the world is perfect. Everyone has their flaws because that’s what makes us human. Maybe you feel like it’s all your fault or maybe you feel like it’s all someone else’s fault. I understand; it may not seem fair. It’s okay to feel upset, hurt, disappointed or even angry, BUT you have to use those feelings to motivate you to change your life. Don’t get bitter, get better. I know it can be hard to be where you are right now. I have family members and friends in your very shoes as we speak. The thing I admire most about them is that they have hope. You have to have hope. Don’t give up on yourself. You can be anything you want to be. I mean anything – doctor, lawyer, entrepreneur, whatever you set your mind to do. Imagine the life you want once you have finished your time there. Work towards making that life a reality. Go back to school if that’s what you need to do. Whatever it is you want to do, just do not give up. There are too many people who gave up far too soon and regret it. Keep your head up. You can be great starting today.

Sending you light and hope.


Dear future leader,

I cannot put myself in your shoes right now because I have not been where you have been or seen the things you have seen. Our life experiences may be the complete opposite, or just alike. Who knows. Either way, I am here to offer some words of encouragement because that’s something we all can use at some point in our lives. Someone once said “a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor”. This means that life has its ups and downs. We don’t always know what life will throw our way and at times life can seem so unfair, but we have to keep hope and keep the faith in ourselves because our challenges only make us better. Some may see this as the worst time of their life, but I want you to see this as time to grow, change and work to becoming the person you want to be. Remember, any feelings of defeat are only temporary; you can be great. This is only a bump in the road. It does not have to be your life. Don’t give up on yourself; you are worth it. Find a goal and use this time to work towards making that goal happen. You can literally do anything you put your mind to. I know you can do it because I am doing it. We all have the same capabilities to succeed, despite our circumstances. We just have to overcome those circumstances to make it happen. Of course, that is easier said than done, but I believe that you can be great.

Believe in yourself. Stay strong.

Sending you light and hope.


If only my story could inspire you……

I was born and raised in Jacksonville, FL.

Growing up wasn’t the best for me. I was faced with several obstacles daily. Not only to survive

physically, but also mentally and financially. The single-parent household in a lower income area

only added to the problem. If it wasn’t my siblings who were in trouble or just simply into some

deviant behavior, it was my peers. Growing up I felt like a square, I was cornered. Each corner

had someone close to me, brother, father, friend and consisted of something- that I wanted no

part of, rather it was drugs, crime, jail, or skipping school. There was this saying that I would

hear growing up “you are who you hang around.” For the most part, I never agreed until I found

myself in the back of a police car. I was slowly becoming a product of my environment. When I

was younger, I watched my father enter and exit not only the county jail but, also state and

federal prison, which left my mother to fend for me and my 3 siblings alone. With a criminal

record, jobs were harder to come across for him and he had lost most of his rights as a result of

being a convicted felon. As time passed, I watched my brothers and everyday friends in my

neighborhood become revolving doors with the criminal justice system. This was not the life that

I wanted for myself or for others that have grew up in similar situations. In fact, I didn’t want

this life for anyone. This led me to pursue a career in criminal justice. One that will allow me to

work with juveniles to prevent them from becoming revolving doors with the system and fix

their life while they have a second chance. I was ecstatic to learn of the internship experience

with E-SToPP. I applied, and after approval, I took on the challenge in hopes of helping with the

molding of our future.


To Someone Like Me,

I am a special education teacher in Norfolk, Virginia. Family backgrounds or labels that are placed upon my students many times hold them back from doing things that interest them. If this pertains to you or not, don’t ever let someone place a label on you. Your destiny is what you make it. I hope that you take heed to these words, as they should stick with you the rest of your life.

No one in this world is perfect so many of the decisions that have been made are from experiences. What you are going through right now is an experience but it does not make you whom you are. I can remember growing up living out of hotels and really feeling like I had no one to talk to. Looking back, that small part of my life has really developed my communication skills. I love to talk to anyone about any and everything. My plan is to become an Elementary Principal. I know you probably have plans or just simple goals for yourself in the near future. Please take the opportunity to advance yourself by doing whatever interests you. Know that you have someone out in the world who is supporting you and that would be me.

Love,
A Caring Friend


To Our Future,

I’m a dental hygienist living in Virginia. I come from a family where my grandparents didn’t finish high school. My parents did complete high school, but no one had graduated from college. Living in a small country town, education was not always thought of as a priority. It was always my goal to go to college because my parents said they wanted me to do better than they had. So through the help of loans and scholarships I was able to attend and graduate from college, but it wasn’t easy.

The road to becoming a dental hygienist was long and hard and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of my family and faith in God. Even though my family was very supportive, if I didn’t believe in myself, I would not have been successful. When I first started school there were teachers who didn’t believe in me, other classmates to compete with, and the constant voice in the back of my head saying, “You can’t do it”. I was defeating myself with negative thoughts. I started to go to Bible study held on campus and learned about how what you think becomes reality. I began to think more positively. “I can do this”, “I am smart”, “I will become a dental hygienist”. That positive thinking made it easier for me to be confident in my work and my abilities. Even when everything else in my life was falling apart, I continued to pray and remain positive and I was able to make it through. Now I’m in the process of getting my master’s degree.

Even if you don’t believe in God, I think that it’s important to have something to believe in and to be able to be positive in any situation you may face. Right now it may not look like there is a possibility for you to turn your situation around, but I believe that there is a bright future ahead for you. You just have to keep telling yourself that. Surround yourself with those who have similar goals as you and work together. I believe in you and I’m praying for your success.

A friend.


Hey! What’s up!

I’m a twenty-three year old registered nurse living in the heart of Norfolk. I’m writing you to let you know that anything is possible, with God’s faith and Mercy. I want to tell you a little about my story. I was a lost freshman in college, not know what I want to major in. I just knew I wanted to help people. After several months of self-evaluation, deep thought, and advice from my Dad I decided I wanted to be a nurse! A year had passed before I took the initiative to go speak to the nursing advisors on campus. The advisor took one look at me and then at my GPA, and told me to find another major. She didn’t even think twice about it or give me advice on how I could get into the program. Keep in mind I had a 3.7 GPA at the time. I got discouraged, and really had no motivation to even be in college anymore. I had no idea what God was trying to tell me. I went to church that Sunday and on Monday I was back in the nursing advisors office asking her what I had to do to get in to this program. She told me to apply, but that I would probably be wait listed if anything. I had brought my GPA up to a 3.9 that fall and in the summer I received a letter in the mail stating that I had been wait listed for the nursing program. I was heartbroken but I didn’t lose faith. Right before the new school year started the dean of nursing called my cell phone, and asked if I wanted to be apart of the program because someone else pulled out. I was ecstatic! I couldn’t believe my time had come! It was one of my proudest moments. If someone had told me then where I’d be now I would not believe him or her at all. I am now working my butt off but I’m still living out my dream as a critical care nurse! One step closer to being a travel nurse, and seeing the world! With that being said I’m here to tell you to block out all the negative energy in your life, and grind for what you really want! God already has your name on it. People are going to tear you down, just to see if you will break! Also, keep your circle small! I had a hard time with that, I couldn’t see evil in anyone I came across and trusted too many people for them to just turn their back on me when I needed them the most. Now I’m down to a few friends and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Also, drop all the dead weight. People that aren’t uplifting you, and wanting to see you succeed in life, need to go as well. You are God’s child and he will not let you down. Just promise him and me that you will not lose faith, and that this is not your stopping point!

Keep pushing; the best has yet to come! Sincerely,
A Friend


To Our Future,
I am a health care professional writing to you from Virginia. I wanted you know

that you have a big future ahead of you and no one can take that away. There will always be struggles in life but whether you decide to overcome these obstacles or not will determine your success. I’m not saying life is going to be easy because it isn’t but you are not alone in this world. There will always be people looking down on you and judging you regardless of who you are. I personally use that as my motivation to prove people wrong and you should too. It is your life and you have a voice. Stand up with your head held high and prove these stereotypes wrong. You’re young and have your whole life ahead of you and no one can determine your future except you.

If I didn’t use all of the hate I received from others for my motivation I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. There have been many people who have told me that I wasn’t smart enough, I wasn’t going to be anything in life, and that I’m going to be doing the same thing that my parents are doing. I used that as my motivation to get a college education. I wanted to prove them all wrong and now that I’m a Registered Dental Hygienist, I am applying to Dental School to be a Dentist. One day I will be able to look back and laugh at everyone who ever told me I couldn’t do it. No one in my family has ever went to college, I did it all on my own. I wish you could see the positive impact that you can make in this world. Find a goal that you can reach and avoid toxic friends that will prevent you from reaching these goals. I am here if you ever need anything. You only one life so make one that you can look back and be proud of.


The reflections of one kid’s life

As I sit here in this medical school there is only one word that I can contribute to the reason; determination. Saying my journey was easy would be a lie, saying I didn’t make multiple mistakes alone the way would also be a lie. I find myself reflecting back and wondering why I was able to make it to my current state whereas my countless number of peers was not. I question as to why some of my friends decide to make the decisions that they do. Then that’s where the word I eluted to earlier come into play. My determination has always set me apart from everyone else. I must admit that my determination was not always focused on such high desires as medical school. In high school it was being popular, freshman year of college it was parties and girls; which lead to me becoming a college dropout. I was in a place in my life that my desire and determination to impress my friends had left me with nothing. I wasn’t doing anything useful with my time and was always in and out of some type of trouble. My parents out of disappointment was not willing to help me, I didn’t have a job, and I didn’t know what I wanted out of my life. All I knew was that the path I was on was not what I wanted for my life. Time was passing by quickly and my savings was disappearing even quicker. I was stuck with no opportunities seemly open and I was sick and tired of how my life was turning out. I made the conscious decision to make something out of myself and not allow myself to fall into the trap of society that I had watched so many of my fellow peers fall into. This decision led to my enlistment into the Marine Corps.

The number of lessons I learned during the Marine Corps seem to be endless but there are a few worth mentioning. First lesson comes from a fellow recruit of mine while in boot camp. He was a native of Kenya, South Africa who had won a trip to the United States by a local lottery. The desire to stay in the United States led him to joining the Marine Corps in order for him to gain citizenship. Boot camp was extremely difficult for all of us but at least we knew English and American norms. For this poor guy it was even harder but he was able to push through and finish. However, that’s not what left the lasting impression on me. His ability to carry a smile no matter how difficult times were is the reason why he effected my life. When I was feeling at my lowest, all I had to do was look at him and see how happy he was to be there. This type of happiness in such a terrible place only makes you wonder how much worse things were from where he came. The second lesson learned occurred after my first visit back home. I had been away from home for around 3 months but I had become a completely different person during that small amount of time. My friends however were still on the block doing the same nonsense. That’s when I realized how much of a change can be made within such a small amount of time and how much potential can be wasted if the opportunity isn’t taken in order to make that change. The third lesson I learned really hits home the most, it’s how I found myself and found the potential hidden within. I came to the realization that I was special and that I could make a difference in the world. I had always thought that I was special and would be “bigshot” one day but this is the moment in my life that I actually believed it. With the new found belief also came the determination to make it happen and I’m still pushing towards that goal even today.

In the words of my father, “There are two types of people in this world, those that feel and those that listen”. So I have said all of that so hopefully someone could listen and learn from my story. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the traps of society. Stop worrying about being that cool kid and impressing friends. Find a challenge and face it straight on, knowing that once on the other side you will be a better person. Know that there are complete strangers who you have never met and probably never will, who believes in you!


We as a group here in the MED have had roads full peril and condemned with issues and injustices. This world is a mean and nasty place “and I don’t care how tough you think you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me NO one hits harder than life. But it’s not how hard you hit, it’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”

I don’t judge man but man will always judge deeds. A hard life isn’t an excuse. I grew up in some of the meanest of streets. It’s not a about money and it is mostly, not about your crew. Life wouldn’t be so precious if there was never an end to it. It is finite and living it to the fullest is an option you should never let anyone taken away. So get out, and don’t look back. Living life full is not wealth, it is not fame, and people lose life chasing these things. Life is about you, if your strong enough to handle it.


WORDS OF WISDOM

Dear Young Brother,
Who are you? If you cannot give an honest and well thought out answer to this question then you

need to take the time to figure it out. Say someone were to wake up from a coma and have no memory of who they are. Every day they are called a thug and a criminal. Eventually that message starts to seep into their subconscious and then even they will begin to see themselves as a thug and a criminal. If you do not know who you are then you are no different than a blank slate waiting to be defined by other people. You MUST define who you are and the type of person that you want to be so that no other labels can be used to describe you. You are a winner. You are about your business. You are a man of your word. These are only examples but it is up to you to decide what will define you.

Once you have decided the type of man you are then you must develop a supreme confidence in yourself. No, that does not be cocky. That does not mean be arrogant. That means that whatever you set your mind to you have no doubt whatsoever that you are absolutely capable of accomplishing the goals you set. You must always remain humble. When you have defined who you are and walk in integrity with a supreme confidence then you are destined for success. Fear will not slow you down. Haters will motivate you. Loved ones will come rushing to support you. In order to get to this point you can simply start by looking in the mirror and asking, “Who am I?”.

Understand that mistakes are part of human nature and yet we are not defined by our mistakes but by our responses to those mistakes. Did you learn from your mistakes or did you make them again? To run from your mistakes is to run from being a man. You cannot define the man you want to be until you learn to embrace your past. Mistakes happen and sometimes it costs us. But the biggest cost would be allowing a mistake to negatively define who we are and effecting the rest of our lives.

Dream big and know that you have everything it takes to be successful and accomplish your dreams. Never let anyone or anything try and define you in a way that you don’t want to be defined.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me -Philippians 4:13


Dear future leader,
I’m writing to you as a current medical student from West Baltimore. Stories like

mine are rare, but this is about you. If I told you that the majority of America truly wants you to succeed, I’d be lying. We are in the minority, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a right to success. I know you’ve been through a lot. But this stage of your life isn’t the end; it’s only the beginning. The truth is, we have to work ten times as hard to get half of what they have. But that’s fine, because the obstacles you overcome in life make your journey.

Malcolm X once said, “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.” You have the rest of your life ahead of you, and you can do anything or be anyone you want to be. If anyone tries to convince you otherwise, it will be an even greater pleasure when you prove them wrong. For me, Baltimore wasn’t the easiest place in which to thrive. I may have even encountered some situations similar to yours in Miami. I have friends on the streets of Baltimore that might stay there for the rest of their lives. But that doesn’t have to be you. I just want this to give you some hope, even when things are as bad as they’ve ever been. You are America’s future.

Sincerely, A hopeful future doctor


Young Men,

That’s what you are. Some of you have probably been through a lot. But you haven’t seen the half of what life has to offer.

You may have heard this before but guess what? Been there done that. Let me tell you bout me. All my life I’ve seen hard times. Trailers with no lights. Empty Christmas trees. Mayonnaise sandwiches. Hand me downs. Abuse. Food stamps. Almost everyone in my family is on drugs of some sort but the ones responsible for raising me were mainly on crack. So you can throw the eviction notes in there too. Many of them.

I ended up doing a robbery where one of the victims was shot. I’ve been home for a year now and I did 5 years 8 months and 21 days. And I remember every bit of it. I’m writing to you to tell you that Prison is WACK! Trust me. I have a cousin that got locked up at the same time and he’s still in there until 2020. He has 2 little girls that hardly ever get to see him or talk to him and it sucks because they love him so much.

Listen to me. And take heed. I’m not a snitch. I did my time for what I did, nobody else. A man takes responsibility for his actions. If you don’t feel like taking responsibility then all you have to do is change your actions. The guys that you think are your homeboys….. They’re NOT. My so-called “homeboy” snitched on me and went home and did the same stupid stuff and got locked back up a few more times. Let me make this make sense for you. If you chill with people that get in trouble, guess what your gonna do? Exactly… your gonna get in trouble too. If you chill with people who are doing good in school, guess what you’re gonna do? Yes you’re gonna do good in school because you’re keeping good people around you to help keep you on track. People love you even if they’re not family. Since I’ve been home I’ve helped people get jobs and I’m always helping people to stay out the streets.

Perfect example Real story. I met a guy during my bid. He’s a blood. Im sure yall know about all that, but he wants to stay out of prison so we got cool. He came home not too long ago and couldn’t find a job. Soooo he started hustling but he told me all this with a true heart because he really wanted help. A Good friend of mine who is out here doing GREAT called me. I told him about my homeboy struggling and guess what. My friend got my homeboy a job and he’s not hustling anymore. I tell you that because you have to surround yourself with people who want to help you. Get your mind right. Its not about who got the nicest J’z or the freshest clothes. There are real good guys serving life sentences that wish they had the opportunity to go home. So for you to get out and do something stupid to get locked back up, that would be like spitting in their faces. Don’t take your freedom for granted.

And yall prolly think I’m some type of a b**** but naw it ain’t even about that either. I get so much respect from people that its unbelievable. Just because I came from nothing and im gonna make it outchea. I’m just hoping and praying yall can do the same. Have faith. Do what’s best for you and your life and stop making stupid decisions. Im gonna tell yall one more time just in case yall don’t believe me. PRISON IS WACK! I’m gone.


Overcoming Obstacles

Hi, I am a 26 year old graduate student studying to become a dentist. My classmate and friend, asked me to write to the Miami Juvenile Detention Center. I firmly believe that our mistakes should not determine our path in life so I will share with you some advice. For a long time, I did everything I was “supposed to”. I took the tests I needed to take in high school to get into the hardest classes. I was friends with the girls that I felt like I needed to be friends with. I only signed up for the classes that would “help me get into dental school.” I was spending a lot of energy just keeping up with everyone.

The constant pressure was controlling my life and I made some really poor decisions while I was in college. All of the other students in school seemed so much smarter than me and I thought I could never possibly succeed. On top of this, I got a lot of criticism from adults saying I didn’t have what it takes to become a doctor. Looking back, I know that my classmates were not better than me, I just let myself become intimidated and ultimately gave up. My other point here is, sometimes even adults, the people who are supposed to be our mentors can bring you down. Just because someone has achieved success does not mean it’s ok to say you aren’t good enough no matter how hopeless the situation looks.

It wasn’t until my last year of college did I realize there might be other options out there besides what I was “supposed to do”. I moved away from my hometown to start my master’s degree at Barry University in south Florida. This program is basically a “second chance” for those who want to become doctors or dentists but need to improve their science knowledge. Most everyone is my class has faced the same obstacles in trying to get into medical school. So whenever you think you’re the only one going through something, chances are you are not alone. Finding a group of friends who will root for you instead of discouraging you is really important.
I have the opportunities that I have now, not because I did what I was supposed to but because I paved my own path and built my own life. Before I had only a slender hope of a career as a dentist until I made the decision not to make my mistakes ruin the rest of my life. The path less traveled is an adventure.


To a future leader,

This letter is written to you from someone who, like you, has made mistakes. Mistakes happen, everyone makes them. They are a part of life. But there are two types of people in this world. Some people choose to be defined by their mistakes; frankly, those people don’t usually go very far in life. On the other hand, other people look at their mistakes, understand why it was wrong to do what they did, accept that it happened (and I mean truly, deeply accept it), and move on. When I say “move on,” I don’t mean that you should forget about what you did and walk around like nothing happened. Instead, use it as a life-defining learning experience to build yourself into your true potential. Your mistakes, however large or small, will not define you. Remember that. People get broken down, but the beauty in that is that there is always a way to put yourself back together in a significantly improved fashion. In your situation, dig deep and reflect upon how you can put yourself back together into a version of yourself that is wiser, stronger, and more aware of how your actions may affect those around you. Remember that every action has a consequence, whether good or bad, so everything you do or say from this point forward will play a role in determining your future. It won’t happen overnight, but you will notice your growth soon enough when it becomes a habit.

In the meantime, remember that you are a young man living in a world where hard work results in success. That hard work may take years or decades, but in the long run your blood and sweat will reward you. Which brings me to my next point…find what you love and pursue it. We are fortunate to live in a world that allows dreamers to dream, and achievers to achieve, and you, my friend, can do just that. I know that I have made mistakes in the past, but that hasn’t stopped me from chasing my dream to become an oral surgeon. You can do it too if you really set your mind to it. Remember, you are who you choose to be, so don’t take that for granted. Do good, and good will come to you. Go achieve your dreams, my friend.

From a fellow future leader


You’ve made a mistake, maybe a terrible mistake that put you in a tough position, but we all make mistakes. President Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president of the United States was once arrested for speeding. Malcolm X, was imprisoned for 7 years before he realized his potential and became a great leader. Even our current president Barack Obama, admits to using marijuana as a youth.

What makes these men special is that they admitted their mistakes, but did not let their mistakes hold them back. Every day you wake up you have an opportunity to be great. You’re unique, look around you, can you point out any one that looks like you, talks like you and thinks like you? Everything happens for a reason, and you have a purpose. The biggest mistake you could ever make is thinking you’re worthless. You must challenge yourself, educate yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Always keep your head up, and remember, in order to make your dreams come true, you must believe in YOU.


I knew this guy Roberto, or “Bobby”, in college. He became a close friend my last year so I saw the mass amounts of job offers he got. These companies were literally fighting over him, offering to pay more than the others. All jealous of course, we thought “Bobby is so lucky. He must have grown up in this big, supportive family that paid his entire way through school.” Boy did we realize how wrong we were when we came across this article:

“Many students who will accept their degrees from Virginia Tech later this month took a “traditional” path. They worked hard to get good grades in high school, balanced with extracurricular activities and service, and went straight to college. That was not the case for Roberto Reyes of Chicago, a senior majoring in economics in the Pamplin College of Business. “I came from an impoverished and rough area of Chicago, raised by a single-parent, and got into my fair share of mischief.”

In fact, Reyes barely passed high school. Instead of college, he decided to join the U.S. Navy. After a three-year commitment, Reyes stayed in Virginia where he had been stationed, eventually moving to Roanoke to work at a hotel and take classes at Virginia Western Community College, earning a 3.7 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale). He applied to transfer to Virginia Tech and was accepted.”

Bobby was a minority, raised in the streets of Chicago, who got into plenty of trouble growing up. With no support from family or friends, Bobby had to look to himself for encouragement.

In all of college, I had never met someone who worked so hard in school. He put everyone’s hard work to shame and still found the time to help others. Whenever I asked him, how he became so motivated, he said “I didn’t want to end up like my friends. We were making cash fast, but in the wrong ways. My friends were ending up in jail and some, homeless or dead.” Bobby went through his fair share of rough experiences growing up, but he did not let the difficult past define his future.

Please consider this. I am writing this in my free time. I don’t know you, but I wish people realized how hard work can turn a life around. You may have to work much others have had to, but it will feel so great when you are on top. Do not let a few bad mistakes determine your future- they don’t have to.

Tough times never last, but tough people do.