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A New Jersey group is bringing a positive but impactful message to students around the state. That message is that your past stays with you for the rest of your life.

Michael DeLeon started the non-profit, Steered Straight, after serving ten years in prison and two more in a halfway house for assorted crimes. DeLeon has decided to use his second chance to give back and teach students about real life.

He says that Steered Straight presents dynamic student assemblies and presentations “about choices and decisions and consequences to youth regarding drugs, gang activity, criminal activity, bullying in schools.”

The idea is to blend stories, such as his, with success stories to illustrate what becomes of every decision that we make, all with a positive message.

“I was always under the impression prison was full of evil people and prison’s not full of evil people,” DeLeon explained. “It’s full of people who have made poor choices and poor decisions.”

The program has reached more than 1 million students around the area. They are currently holding about 150 assemblies a year, a number that’s expected to nearly double this year. A variation of the assembly is conducted for K-5 to middle school students, and even into high school.

He says the feedback has shown that their presentation resonates with the kids.

“My mission is really to bring an educational message to students about real life, that consequences can last forever,” he said, “I wanted kids to understand that once you’re an ex-con, you’re an ex-con for the rest of your life. There’s no reset button like there is a on video game.”

DeLeon says his goal is to spread his message to as many Garden State students as possible.

“I can’t ever stop what I’m doing. I can’t ever look back. I can only look forward and I can try to impact kids from letting my past become their future.”

Original Article With Audio:

By: Matthew White