That ain’t me no more.

That ain’t me no more.

Manuel, age 18, was born in Haiti and moved to the U.S. when he was 2 months old.

“I met my mom when I was 15 years old. She’s been in and out of the U.S. ever since then and my dad has never really been around.

As soon as I got into high school, that’s when my whole image changed. I wasn’t into sports anymore, I was just carrying weapons, hanging with a bunch of friends who drank, smoke, did all of that. I was always carjacking and it was fun for me, even though I knew one day I would get caught. In the back of my mind there was something in me that kept saying “Go home…just go home. Don’t do this”

One day, after a carjacking, I got caught. They took me downtown and I had a court date set for the next week. But, I mean, it wasn’t really a consequence. I kept doing the same thing.

A couple months later, me and my friends were going to carjack a car. I got the car and was going to drive off and then realized there was a kid in the backseat.

I really folded then. I loved carjacking but I didn’t want to take it this far.

I told the kid, who was about 6 or 7, “Your parents are calling you, you’ve got to get out of the car.” After he got off I sped off and came back to my neighborhood. A couple hours went by and I was walking down the street and I got stopped by an undercover cop car.

I had really changed.

I used to stay in school, do all my work, all of that. But now I was carjacking, robbing people on the streets. One day I just sat down in my room thinking, “what if I get caught again for the same thing?”

The judge had told me, if I had gotten caught after my 18th birthday I’d have been doing 5 years right now. I’d have been in a cell, crying my eyes out.

So I came back to school the next day. I started opening up, especially to one of my favorite staff, Mr. Tim. Anytime I was in some type of trouble, he was the one I could talk to.

Since being in this Youth For Christ class, I’ve been learning how to love myself, walk with God, respond without anger, be a man, and trust God. This whole process has made me think that the image I had set for myself in the past is not the image I want now. In my neighborhood I was like the crash dummy, people would always get me to do stupid stuff and I realized, “that’s not me, man.” I’m a leader. I don’t want to follow.

Today, it’s like a whole new Manuel now. I don’t do any of that stuff anymore. I don’t carjack no more, I don’t rob no more. I take care of my kid. I go to work and I go to school. I use the resources I have and ask people for help. That old Manuel…that ain’t me no more.

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