It took a lot for me to decide to tell my story. I'm used to separating my past from my work. But I think I have more to offer, that there's a reason I went through all this. Maybe it’s somebody else's chance, maybe my story can help them. 

When you're little, you're supposed to learn values and you're supposed to learn morals, what's right, what's wrong, what’s normal. When you wake up every day of your life and you see your parents using drugs, in your eyes that's normal.

In sixth grade I started realizing that things weren’t okay at home. I started asking questions, “Why do you do that?” or “What’s that?” I wanted to be the better person and maybe change things. But when your parents are stubborn…you can't change the way somebody is, especially if they've been like that for a long time.

So I left. I chose to live on the streets versus home. I was 13 years old. Move out on the streets, and people are doing drugs. So you think, well, maybe this is how things are supposed to function. I started coming into the drug scene and it just went out of control. Those years, it was out of one situation, into a worse situation, into an even worse situation. Of course I dropped out of school. It was too much responsibility with everything else that was going on.

When I was 18, my so-called friend and I committed burglary. A few hours later, the police were at our door. We tried to run but we didn't get very far. I was scared to death.

After numerous violations of my probationary terms for refusing to do community service (working for free just didn't appeal to me, I guess) the judge agreed to reduce my violations provided I went to Forest Camp. It was like camping. We'd go out to the woods and build trails. I loved it. Being out there with people who have been through what I had, I honestly believe that is the one thing that changed the way I thought about things and the first sign of hope.  

Now it was time to do something right. I wanted to just be normal, to be better than what I used to be, better than I saw the best to be. I was introduced to a steel foundry for work. I interviewed well and they didn't check backgrounds, so I was fortunate to get in. I started out as a helper – a lot of hard work and doing the right thing – and then I was gifted an apprenticeship. This was the first time I ever felt so called “normal.” I went from helper to lead journeyman molder.

One of my bosses told me, “You need to look at food industry as a career. People always need to eat,” he said. Well, I loved Dave's Killer Bread, and saw an opening. I had to work here. It was my goal. So I did everything I could to get hired. 

Now at Dave’s, I am a distribution manager with about 20 people on my team. When I get an applicant who has had some trouble in the past, I have the opportunity to look at it in a different view. Just to know people here have been through something that you’ve been through is enough to give you strength. I have an opportunity to give them a chance, and the ability to give time, respect and understanding to help them through.

That's really what I needed. Time, respect, understanding. That's something I never got. If I’d had Dave's in the beginning, maybe things would've been different. Maybe I would have started on the right path earlier.