“I made an abrupt decision on June 4, 2014 that left Indiana State Troopers in a state of befuddlement when they realized that I fled from them because I didn’t have a license”–so states Chicago-born LeWayne Patterson, 27, in an essay he wrote after he became a student in the Lafayette Adult Resource Academy (LARA) program at the Tippecanoe County Jail in Lafayette, Indiana. While “sorry for the circumstances that brought him to [her] class” in September 2017, LeWayne’s teacher, Cherry Richardson, was “grateful…to have such a determined student,” and has high praise for him: “LeWayne is a model student and a natural leader. He is so sweet and respectful, always on task, and giving his very best.”
LeWayne, in turn, spoke highly of his teacher: “The best part of the class was being up in there with a teacher who actually cared about me.”
Regretful about what he had done, LeWayne set out to change course while he was at TCJ: “I had always wanted to go back to school to get my high school diploma, so that was really my push for achieving my goal.” He further elaborates in his essay: “I knew I needed to be wiser and outgrow of my negative ways.”
LeWayne certainly made a positive out of his situation: according to Cherry, “LeWayne is a shining star. He lit the way for others. No matter what he was working on, he would selflessly set it aside to help a fellow classmate. I could not be prouder of him.” While giving to others, he also helped himself: he attained college readiness, earning NRS 6 on his TABE 9 & 10 Math, Language, and Reading tests; passed the TASC test; and graduated in December 2017 after being released from jail with a shortened sentence due to his attendance in Cherry’s class and his exemplary behavior while there.
Currently a forklift operator in Hammond, Indiana, LeWayne is most importantly the father of four: LeShari (10), Laqyiah (6), LeWayne III (4), and Layla Patterson (1). If his helpful and determined disposition and achievements in Cherry’s class are any indicator, LeWayne undoubtedly has the soft skills, will, and ability to succeed, along with a can-do spirit that elevates those around him. As Cherry states, “Seeing him work so hard gave me the motivation to be my best version every day…He is a gift.” LeWayne’s story helps us all to see the power of recognizing wrong turns and changing direction with resolve, positivity, care for others, and perseverance.