Kareem Thompson has first-hand experience of the poverty, gun violence and drug abuse in our community.

Thompson grew up in Erie. At 17, He turned to selling drugs as a way to provide for his family. He had gotten a girl pregnant and was looking for quick money to provide for the baby on the way.

"At the time, I didn't think about the cons," said Thompson. "I just thought about all the pros that have benefits with it, but I learned the hard way that the cons come with it."

Thompson spent majority of his life in and out of prison. He missed out on several major events and didn't get the opportunity to know some members of his family.

"What made me turn my life around was them kids. They didn't ask to be here."

Thompson attributes some of his success to Bishop Dwayne Brock of Word of Faith Development Corp.

Back in the early 90s Bishop Brock took in 15-20 young men from the streets and recruited them to help build a playground at the corner of East 23rd and Holland street.

Thompson's work building the playground made him realize he wanted to help next generation of kids here at home. He now uses his experiences as a lesson for the kids in the community of what happens if you go down the wrong path.

"Listen to what we have to say. We're not saying we're better than you. We're just saying that we did that, and this is what happened when we did it," said Thompson. 

Thompson said that finding a purpose and having a job helped him make better choices. Moving forward, Thompson looks to be the influence that teaches kids the value of having that purpose.

"When you work in a job... that's amazing. that's an amazing feeling. You get a paycheck every day that you work hard for, that you don't have to worry about the consequences with it."