Former inmate-turned-mentor challenges gang members to turn their lives around
January is National Mentoring Month and while many with offer just a few hours a week to making a difference, one man has dedicated his entire life to mentoring black youth heading down the wrong path.
Abrigal Forrester was 21 when he started a 10-year prison sentence. He credits older inmates, mentors, for getting him to question the path he was going down. Now at 43, he is challenging young men to do the same thing.
“Some of them became father figures to me, almost like a parenting situation. They challenged me,” Abrigal, 43, recalls about the most important mentors while serving a 10-year mandatory sentence at Massachusetts State Prison.
Since completing his sentence, Abrigal has worked with numerous organizations that support court-involved youth, low- income populations, and chronically unemployed individuals, including Boston Foundation’s Street Safe Boston initiative, Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts (ULEM), and the Suffolk County House of Corrections. Today, Abrigal directs the criminal justice initiatives at YouthBuild USA’s national headquarters in Boston. More than 260 YouthBuild programs across the country work with low-income young people to get their high school diplomas or GEDs, and learn construction skills while building affordable housing in their own communities.
Youth Build USA allows Abrigal to connect with young men who remind him of his former self like James Mackey, 27. Mackey says Abrigal is the closest thing to a father figure, his own incarcerated before he was born.
Mackey moved to Massachusetts from Ohio to become a program assistant with Youth Bulid USA’s National Mentoring Alliance. The former gang member meets with Abrigal once a month, who he credits as pushing him to obtain his GED.
“He took me under his wing. He met with me and listened to me. He helped me make the transition. He was someone I could look up to.” Today, Mackey has his own apartment in Boston and is pursuing an associates degree.
For More information on Youth Build USA go to www.youthbuild.org.
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