‘This is What Family is Supposed to Be’ — Pierre’s Story
Pierre came to Circle for the first time last January. He entered the room hesitantly, walking behind the friend who had invited him to come and see what we were all about.
Dreadlocks falling over his face, the first thing he offered was, “I just want you to know, I got trust issues and I ain’t gonna talk.”
“Bro, just lighten up, okay? You ain’t gotta be like that,” his friend, Jeylin, who had brought him to Project Legacy, responded.
Prior to coming to Project Legacy, Pierre shared with Jeylin that he had been feeling stressed. He told Jeylin he didn’t know what he was going to do and that he just felt like his head was going to explode. It was then that Jeylin told him about Project Legacy, suggesting that he might find a Circle group to be helpful with stress and anxiety. Jeylin told him that Project Legacy was how he ‘got things off his chest’ and found support from others who had been in similar situations.
I’ll admit that first Circle group with Pierre was challenging. He was testing us to see what we were about, challenging what was said, disagreeing with certain statements, and rolling his eyes. Finally, just as I was about to say something, one of the other group participants did.
“Bro, back off! What the heck? Why are you acting like this? You don’t need to come in here and act all hard. That’s not what this is about. We’re a family here. No one’s going to come at you like that, so back off,” the group member said.
I wasn’t sure we would ever see him again — but we did.
The next week, Pierre was back. He admitted to us that Circles weren’t new to him — he had been a trained Circle Keeper in middle school while living in Madison. He knew the model and knew the guidelines. He told us that he had ‘lost his way’ during high school, but made a decision to live a different life.
He moved to Rochester after accepting an offer to play football at RCTC. The first in his family to attend college, the transition had been more difficult than he anticipated. He wasn’t used to a community as “white” as Rochester. He had no transportation. He didn’t know anything about how to study or navigate higher education. By the time he arrived at our door, he was depressed, overwhelmed and on academic probation.
At Project Legacy, Pierre found a positive, sober peer group. He found others who knew what it meant to grow up in generational poverty and with gang-affiliated family members. He found young men and women who had the same values and beliefs that he had. He found friends who, like him, were creating a life that included higher education, sobriety, and a desire to give back and become a positive community member.
All though the winter and spring, Pierre attended study tables with tutors and two Circles every week. At the end of the semester, Pierre had a 3.4 GPA, landing him on the Dean’s List. And the Summer semester? Dean’s List again.
Today, Pierre is a peer mentor who works with other youth who are dedicated to forging a new path — a positive one. He is one of three Project Legacy youth who are being trained by Dr. Amit Sood to teach his program, “Transform: A New Way to Live a Fulfilling Life Based on Timeless Principles and Cutting-Edge Scientific Advances” to other youth.
Ten months ago, Pierre walked into Circle and told me and the Project Legacy youth that he had trust issues and wasn’t going to talk to us. But today, after positive intervention, support and unconditional love, Pierre walked into Dr. Sood’s class at Mayo Clinic and was asked by a woman from Germany, “What is Project Legacy?”
Pierre answered with confidence: “Project Legacy is a program for kids who didn’t have a positive start to life. It’s a family of people who love each other. Project Legacy is about love. It’s where we come to learn the foundation that we should have been taught by our own parents but weren’t. Project Legacy is where we learn to dream again, and then get the support to make the dreams reality. Project Legacy is what a family is supposed to be — it’s love.”