‘Real Talk’ program sees ex-cons encouraging young people to stay on right track

ST. LOUIS – Men who have spent time in prison are working together with area leaders to encourage young people to stay on the right track. It’s all part of a program called Real Talk.

Victor Ali spent 30 years behind bars for murder and other crimes. He’s determined to make sure young African-Americans don’t follow in his footsteps.

“We want kids to go to school, grow up and become responsible human beings, and make something good out of life,” Ali said.

Darren Seals, the man behind Real Talk, also uses his experience as a former convict as a teaching tool for high school students.

“They would rather chase 30 years to life in prison instead of four years in high school,” he said.

His fears are simple but scary: too many young African-Americans spending the rest of their lives in prison or ending up in a local cemetery because of gun violence. The Real Talk program strongly encourages teens to graduate in a cap and gown instead of ending up in a prison jumpsuit.

“Before this, I had gotten in a little trouble and he helped me out of it. It’s good for other people going down the wrong path,” said Avion Welch, a student.

St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner attended the gathering. She knows that folks who have had troubled lives can have a big effect on impressionable young men.

“I think it’s positive to have someone who has been through some things to educate young people to stay out of the system,” Gardner said.

Real Talk does more than talk, they walk the walk as well; teaching young people skills like car repair and drywalling in hopes the students can find good-paying jobs someday.

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