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Vernon's Story: "One bad choice can change your life but it doesn’t have to define you.”

On April 2018, after my release from state prison, I went to the Public Defender’s office to meet Chief Public Defender, Dean Beer, to keep my word that, once released, I would come in and do as much as I could to give back. I had just served 32 years of a life sentence for an accidental homicide. As a young man, I discharged a firearm on an open street and an innocent person was hit. Dean introduced me to the other Public Defenders and, after that I did several speaking engagements for the Public Defender’s office, including speaking to youth about the importance of not squandering opportunities in life. I continued to stay in correspondence with the Public Defender’s office.

In November of 2018, Hopeworx reached out to the Public Defender’s office, looking for a candidate for a Forensic Advocacy position. Dean thought it would be the perfect fit and recommended me and I got the job. I began working for Community Advocates in January 2019. This position gave me the opportunity to follow my passion for giving back to others. I am able to use my story and what I’ve been able to overcome to inspire hope in others. In August 2019, I acquired my Peer Specialist certification, which helped me to enhance these skills.

Part of my role at Hopeworx is teaching a re-entry class in the jail and community, which has 14 modules on topics ranging from understanding the criminal justice system, trauma, distorted thinking, and stress and anger management. I also talk to people and family members individually who are dealing with the criminal justice system. I can be an ear for people when they need someone to listen to them. I never wish anyone to feel like they are alone and there is no one there to help them. I know that feeling of despair all too well. That’s what motivates me every day to get up and do my job!

I don’t know who I would’ve been if that act hadn’t happened, but I know that I’m proud of who I’ve become because of it. One bad choice can change your life, but it doesn’t have to define you! And, I’m not going to let it define me because I am so much more than that. I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life every day; I don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, but I plan to be prepared for it with a positive attitude!

*Vernon is currently facilitating an It's T.I.M.E. Class at the Pottstown Cluster on Fridays from 5 to 6:30 p.m. For more information go to

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