“I was arrested 10 days after my 18th birthday”
After finishing a youth custody sentence with Fernie in 2016, Kareem returned to his community without any parental support. His mom and dad had left the country, and it was up to him as a teenager to support himself. Before long, Kareem was selling drugs, making more money as a teen than most adults. He was establishing himself, but the risks grew with the money, and he was badly shot within one year of being out of custody. Amazingly, Kareem healed and returned to the life he knew.
Ten days after turning 18, he was arrested and sentenced as an adult.
His time in prison was a wake-up call. He got out and completed his parole without falling into old habits – proving to himself that he could do it, so he reached out to his old probation officer for guidance because she had always supported and believed in him.
We have to note here that youth and adults are in separate legal systems as of 18 years old, so Kareem was no longer a client of this probation officer. It didn’t matter to her. She believed in him. She found some options and reminded Kareem about Fernie’s Transition House. Remembering his experience at Fernie, Kareem jumped at the opportunity. He moved in and quickly got to work with the Fernie Works employment program.
For the first time in a long time, Kareem had secure housing and employment without the fear that it could be taken at any moment. This stability allowed him to explore his other goals; improving his relationships, building a sustainable routine, and finding a job he enjoys. Kareem finally had the confidence and the opportunity to follow his potential.
Knowing Kareem today, with an intense work ethic and a bright, optimistic attitude, it’s hard to believe the road he’s taken to get here as a young adult. With that in mind, we asked Kareem to share what he would tell his younger self if he could.
“Stay focused,” he said. “The situation that you’re going through right now is only temporary. Use every single resource in front of you and make your goals very clear.”
*name has been changed for privacy
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