*That’s right. You read the headline right. And this story is proof that one can turn one’s life around. I’m talking 360. And further, that its never too late to do so. It’s a pleasure to report a positive outcome for 67-year-old David Norman, who traded in his orange jumpsuit for graduation attire as he joined the graduating class at the prestigious Columbia University last Wednesday, after acquiring his long sought after Bachelors Degree in…wait for it…
I have yet to meet a felon who didn’t come out of prison with a greater depth of all things philosophical. Think about it — all the time they get to do nothing but sit. And. Think. You have two choices in prison, I would think: Go with the flow or step outside of the box and do you.
It appears to me Mr. Norman chose option #2.
This man’s life from an early age was anything but normal. Just a glimpse of his beginnings show a kid who was drinking liquor by age 11, and doing heroin before his 15th birthday. And as for education?
He spent an entire day in high school.
And what is a kid druggie with no resources going to do? Turn to the streets to support his cravings. Norman became a street hustler; selling drugs to support his addiction.
And the trend lasted for 35 years.
But the fortunate ones get tired of that life. And after a series of arrests for robbery and even manslaughter; coupled with stints in jails and prisons, Norman was ready to change his destiny.
“I did a little inventory of myself to try to unearth what it was that led me astray in the beginning and what I need to do when I get home not to fall victim to this activity again,” he said.
He started reading books during a six-year stretch at Mohawk Correctional Facility in upstate Rome, New York, and even began to learn Hebrew. He also helped maintain a program teaching life skills to inmates preparing to return to society.
“I had a moment of clarity in which I was able to recognize everything I had done at that point was fairly counter-productive and I needed to engage in some new activities and some new behaviors,” Norman said.
In the year 2000, Norman left prison a changed man. And when you know better, you do better. Now Norman had his eye on helping others change their destiny.
Norman was the oldest member in his graduating class.
As he began to turn his life around, and in an effort to help others do the same, he found work in the substance abuse program at Mount Vernon Hospital. And later, took a job at Columbia University assisting in a community health program.
In 2004, he was accepted into Columbia’s School of General Studies, and he was 40 years older than most of his classmates.
But communicating with them was no problem.
“I had a good rapport with the young people because they always amazed me,” said Norman, who has a son and daughter in their 30s.
At his graduation, he sat at the front of his class and cried tears of joy.
“It was a great feeling,” said Norman, who has been sober for 21 years. “I’m just now starting to come down from my little high. I had to wash my clothes yesterday. That brought me back down.”
I smell a book coming! And I’m right!
Take a look at the video:
Read more about this brother’s journey to Columbia and his plans for the future at NY Daily News.