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Life is Full of Choices

August 13, 2008

Sometimes you really feel like something you have been involved in made a difference. And thankfully, sometimes there is someone to contribute to making that involvement possible. Thank you, thank you so very much, Oprah.

Today our library completed the three-part reading and discussion series called the “Great Stories CLUB.” The McCracken County Public Library and McCracken Regional Juvenile Detention Center were selected as one of 173 partnering organizations nationwide to receive a grant from the American Library Association (ALA) to host this series, developed by the ALA Public Programs Office (PPO) and Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). Funding was provided for this program by Oprah’s Angel Network.

The Great Stories CLUB is a reading and discussion program that targets underserved, troubled teen populations. The program reaches teens through books that are relevant to their lives, inviting them to read and keep the books, and encourages them to consider and discuss each title with a group of their peers. It seeks to show that reading can be a source of pleasure, a tool for self-exploration, and a meaningful way to connect to the wider world. Its ultimate goal is to inspire young adults who face difficult situations to take control of their lives by embracing the power of reading.

And believe you me, these students truly face difficult situations.

We met for four weeks, the first time to introduce the program and the following three weeks to discuss the books they had read. First was “Sold” by Patricia McCormick, next was “Hole in My Life” by Jack Gantos and finally we read “Tyrell” by Coe Booth.

Totally pumped and naturally high, each week I left the McCracken Regional Juvenile Detention Center after our Great Stories Club book discussion eager to share my experience with a story on the blog here.

However, within an hour after my return from the facility, I was drained. Melted like a puddle of butter. So weak-kneed that I could barely stumble along. Reliving my discussion experience with the 11 young men serving detention time for murder, rape and drug dealing took everything I had out of me.

What a worthwhile feeling, truly.

So instead of my own words, which I am sure you could barely comprehend or bear through my emotion, I will share their words instead.

Mrs. Mills, their teacher, had given them a writing assignment to work on before they read the books and had prompted them to write about a choice they themselves had made with these words:

Life is full of choices.
One choice can lead to another. Some can take us down the wrong path and others can lead us to glory. Our background leads us down a road that is chosen for us, but eventually we choose our own path.

Students at McCracken Regional Juvenile Detention Center

Students at McCracken Regional Juvenile Detention Center read about choices

Here are the words they shared, edited only to remove personal identifying names or dates and typed as nearly exact as I could possibly make them.

When my auntie have caught on fire I was I the shower and I saw smoke and II got out rapped my self in a towel and ran to the kitchen and saw my uncle with the sink sprayer trying to put the fire out the fire only got bigger so we called 911 and ran out side what I forgot was that it was winter and it was snow outside

***

One choice I wish I had not did was going arrest in get sent to mccracken

***

I made the choice to be immature and mess with a gun, and the outcome resulted in my killing one of my best friends.

***

Protecting my little Brother After I was drinking.

***

I was at the store and I had to choose a Snicker or a Hershy and I chose the Snicker and loved them every since

***

My Time Is when one Time I had to make a choice To go To Church and Try To Do what god wanted Me To Do But I Failed and now I am using god to Help me make Decisions Because I made a couple mistakes In my Life But I never gave up on god To Help me Through them.

***

A decision I had made in my life was to let my old friend alone. She is also my ex which I’ve been with for nearly two years. Things started to straighten up now but I still care for her in a way.

***

I got in a lot of trouble with the court system and I chose to go to a treatment Phacility on my own to get better.

***

My family was going through serious problems like different finances and my family needed money at that time real bad so we could eat and have decent clothes and not get kicked out the house because of not paying for the gas, light, water and rent. At that time my mom didn’t have a job because she was going through stress at court because of my brother and his behavior in life. So she lost him for a short period of time to a boy’s group home. We stayed in a house that barely had light, water, no gas in the winter and not enough food for all 5 of my momma’s kids including herself.

So I made a choice. A decision. A big heartbraking risk that I knew would hurt my momma because of her love for a child and I knew the possibilities that would occur on the streets and in the courtroom.

My “decision” at that time could of lead to death, Years of being incarcerated and heart broke family.

My “decision” at that time to secretely help my momma and brother and sister was me selling work “crack.”

My momma didn’t know when I started. I started by stealing things from the streets such as jacking cars and every criminal thought you could think of as a 14 year old hood rat. I sold them and was thinking that this is not enough money. So I turned my eyes on the things that I saw on the corners, in the houses, out the cars of ever block. Making, buying, and selling work. I went to a person I knew that was real cool to me and was down for any thing that came his way. I knew that he had it, make it, and everything. So he made me his right hand, his Ace, his “goon.” I watched day by day, night by night, how he ran his operations with his clientele’s. And to my imagination it was the hard “life” that was scary, exciting, exhilarating, and more feeling’s I never thought exist. So I was anxious to “start”, anxious to get in the game. He told me he would put me on and that I didn’t know him. I was like alright. The rist thing he told me was that all money ain’t good money and it’s not what you do, but how you do it. I wasn’t thinking about that at the time, but little did I no, I found out what that mean after leaving 1,000$ dollars in my momma’s mailbox, room and car. She was swearing it was a difficult scary feeling to find money like this. But little did she know it was me. I had got my momma and family moved into a different good luxury house within A month and my brother ”was” on his way home and we had food! We had expensive clothes and everything. But that say “All money ain’t good money” bit me so hard when I sold a lot of drugs to an undercover. I froze up but the toughness knew what it was and I was just waiting for that check-point to come. Se this is the decision I made that lead me on a bad road that I chose. But eventually I was lucky to choose my own path to life by not ever touching “crack” let alone any drug in my life. Thanks to my savior who forgave me. I turned my life around.

Believe me these young men now know ALL about choices and consequences. As do I.

And I choose to do this again and again, every time ALA, YALSA and Oprah’s Angel Network can help me.

The Great Stories Club, a reading and discussion series, is a grant initiative of the American Library Association’s Public Programs Office (PPO) and Young Adult Library Service Association (YALSA).

3 Comments leave one →
  1. corey leonard permalink
    December 10, 2009 2:27 am

    im 17 years old…my name is corey leonard, ive been to the mrjdc facility three times, i got released at court today, this morning at 9.45 am, i woke up at 5. 45 made my bed, perfect no reenkles n my stomach was doing back flips, i was getting nautious, and sick to my stomach, i was so scared, not because im a wuss,or because stuff like that, i was scared for my family, not only was i hurting they were to, my dad didnt miss not one visation,he was there everytime,n he told me to keep your head up son, you can get threw this it is not to late, god loves you and threw him anything is possible,i prayed and prayed and prayed everynite i closed my eyes and prayed to the lord,…and look, he released me, all im saying is it is not to late my brothers, change is just around the corner, but its up to u to grab it, and for u to do what u want with it, ive made changes and there for the better,im walking my way to the heaven gates one day now, i thank mr white loff, and miss harris, they were my inspiration and made me think clearly, lord be with everybody incarceratted around the world and let them no, let them no its not to late n change can happen , everybody is good, and it starts from the inside, the inside….thank you

  2. teresa meininger permalink
    January 19, 2010 4:49 pm

    corey, i am very proud of u , my son is in mrjdc, he is 15 years old, and i miss him so much my heart hurts everyday of every second, i have always tried to steer my kids right but at some point he took the wrong turn for 1 stupid second that not only effected him but his family to i tell him every visistation which i never miss stay strong, keep your hear up, and its never over there is time to change your life. congrats to u corey and god bless u

  3. hendrix thompson permalink
    December 12, 2010 8:04 pm

    Ive been to MRJDC once and ive made plenty of changes for the better. Now when i am givin a choice i think of my family and then make the right choice because i dont want to dissapoint friends or family either one. Mrs. Tjones and Mr. scott are THE beststaff in that whole facility,

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