Delonte was just 16 years old in 2004 when he was arrested and charged as an adult for robbery. Before his incarceration, Delonte had stopped attending high school on a regular basis. He was raised by his grandmother since his mother and father were not a part of his life. He liked reading and writing, but his classes just didn’t hold his interest. While he was locked up, he was introduced to Free Minds and relished the opportunity to occupy his time with books and creative writing. “Free Minds were friends when I needed them. They sent me books that I liked to read, and taught me how to express myself through poetry.”
Delonte says his time in prison and the books he read made him appreciate what he had in life. After reading about poverty and war around the world, he realized that even though he was incarcerated he had advantages that other children did not. This set him on a course of taking responsibility for his actions; he became determined to break the cycle of incarceration and create his own destiny.
Delonte obtained his GED certificate while doing time at FCI Cumberland in western Maryland. He was released from prison at the age of 20. Free Minds assisted Delonte in obtaining his first job that fall as a busboy at a restaurant in downtown Washington, DC. This job taught him many basic skills needed to maintain employment. A year later, he interned at the office of Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, which helped him gain basic administrative skills and further his work readiness. “I liked feeling productive and helping Free Minds.”
More recently, Delonte participated with Free Minds in a joint project with the D.C. non-profit Life Pieces to Masterpieces. Delonte took away from these experiences the understanding that he chooses his path in life. “What I got out of the program was knowing that I can control my life no matter the situation…and the understanding that I have the power to do whatever I want to do.”
These days, Delonte is busy at work, maintaining the grounds and buildings at an apartment complex after Free Minds helped him enroll in DC’s Project Empowerment Program. His life has changed dramatically since the day he was locked up. “My priorities have changed the most. Me, as a person, I’ve changed the most.” Delonte is expecting his first child. He is looking forward to getting to be a father and providing for his child. Meanwhile, he feels fortunate that Free Minds has been in his life.
“When I look back on my experiences with Free Minds, I will always remember the friends I made and the importance of keeping a positive attitude and always having hope for your future.”