When a young man was stopped and arrested in New Jersey for drug charges, he was convicted and received a sentence of up to five years in jail with the possibility of parole after 26 months. At the time of his arrest, he said the police officer told him that the boy’s life was over due to the poor choices he made. The young man said he took the officer’s word about ruining his life. He decided he wasn’t going to let his life amount to nothing, so he served his time and started school.

When he was released from jail, he was living in a halfway house waiting for parole. He started taking university classes through a program that helps those with felony convictions. The program was created by a Rutgers history professor in 2005. The program, which helps felons enroll as students, currently has 35 other students.

Now, at 27 years old, the man is an honors student at Rutgers University. He just learned in mid-April that he won a $30,000 Truman Scholarship. The scholarship is only for students who are outstanding and are going to pursue a career in public affairs or with the government. The man is the only graduate from his state that has ever received the prestigious scholarship.

The man said that he knew he had to deal with the stigma of being a felon and thought that he’d never get rid of it. He said he knew he’d broken the law and had to pay for his choice, and that he would not wish prison on his worst enemy. The director of the program was impressed by the man’s determination to better his life, and his brilliance. The man said he was lucky that he got a second chance and, because someone gave him a chance, he wants to help give others a second chance.

Source: Reuters News, “Former crack cocaine dealer wins Truman Scholarship,” Jonathan Allen, March 30, 2012