The latest New Yorker of the Week knows firsthand how a prison sentence can turn a life upside down and he's doing all he can to prevent it from happening to a special group of city kids. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report, which was shot, written and edited by Rachel Smith.
Terrence Stevens served nearly 10 years in prison for a first-time drug charge. A wheelchair-bound inmate, his medical condition played a role in being granted a pardon. Since the day of his release, he's dedicated his life to keeping young people from ending up where he did.
"We try to prevent kids from potentially following in the footsteps of their parents or relatives who have been impacted by the criminal justice system," Stevens says.
Stevens does it by staying "In Arms Reach." It's a nonprofit he founded that looks to break the cycle of what he calls "inter-generational incarceration."
The program gives children with incarcerated family members one-on-one mentoring and provides transportation for visits to prison. A recent goal is to teach science, technology, and engineering. They teamed up with students at City College who lead demonstrations and workshops on each subject.
"Hopefully the children in the program today can be tomorrow's scientists, engineers, website developers," Stevens says.
Sanya Paul, 14, joined the program last year. She plans to go to college to be an electrical engineer.
"I talk to my mentor like every day we text, Facebook," says Paul. "I could go to her and talk to her about stuff. I trust her."
Trust is what makes the program, and Terrence, a success.
"He's great he's believable he's authentic and you know the kids love him he's almost like a kid that never grew up so they really connect with him on you know multiple levels," says "In Arms Reach" Director of Programs Clifford Dodd.
"He hasn't just said I'm going to live my life my way and I've been through so much horrible stuff and I'm going to become bitter. He said I am going to turn this around and turn this cycle of despair and dread around and make a commitment and take action and do something very powerful and he's doing it and he did it," says Filmmaker Nina Rosenblum.
So, for giving his all to keep at-risk kids within arms reach, Terrence Stevens is the latest New Yorker of the Week.