Marcellas flashes another winning smile, shakes my hand, and simply states, “Y’all Persevere. Y’all family.”

I felt a lot of things after meeting Marcellas. I felt frustration with the “justice” system. I felt a renewed gratitude for my own freedom. Most of all, I felt invigorated. Hope and optimism are especially contagious when found in unlikely places. 

The mistakes Marcellas made landed him in prison for years, but that’s not new at Persevere. Everyone at Persevere has made mistakes.

Listening to his story (and those of so many others) I felt my shock and aggravation grow, but then sat in silent awe at their positive attitudes and optimism.

Marcellas doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder. He doesn’t seem to hold any grudges or devote much energy to re-living the past. You can’t resist your own grin when he flashes his one-dimpled smile. He’s been part of Persevere for the last 16 months and has grown into a talented Web Developer thanks to their program.

When asked about his future, he flashed that one-dimple smile again. His eyes lit up even more than usual and he used the same word I’d heard from most of the Persevere participants:

“Opportunities.”

“I know who I am now,” he added. “That kid I used to be was on a fast-track to an orange jumpsuit or a casket. This is the slow-grind to real success.”

Persevere is clearly doing something more than just teaching computer coding to individuals like Marcellas. It goes beyond setting up housing and helping them land a good job. It creates new avenues, opens new doors, and gives them hope where little existed before.

Marcellas might not spend the rest of his life writing computer code. He’s also a talented musician and artist.

After our short meeting, I didn’t feel nervous about his future. Instead, I wished I could bottle some of his momentum and optimism for myself. 

We stood and shook hands. “Don’t forget about us little guys when you make it big!” I joked.

He didn’t skip a beat when he responded. His tone was jovial, but tolerant in a way that suggested how absurd my statement had been. After only a week, it’s easy to see why. 

Marcellas was right. Once you get involved with Persevere…

“Y’all Family.”