When Walter Zellars enrolled at YBN, he brought with him a long history of involvement with the criminal justice system, family instability and trauma. He was initially reserved, showing little emotion, except in moments of anger and found it difficult to positively interact with his peers. Gradually, Walter came to view YBN as a safe haven, eventually revealing that his behavior was the result of deeply embedded trust issues. He had been let down by his family and several people who he had considered friends. Anti-social behavior was a way to avoid additional violations of his trust. In finally opening up, Walter took a step toward transforming his perspective and ultimately, his life trajectory.

Walter soon became extremely driven to change his life. Being proactive, he decided to be a guest speaker at the Essex County Prosecutor Office’s first all male youth conference, “From Boys to Men” in March 2012. He simultaneously completed his college applications and Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Walter also took on the task of applying to the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), which involved a rigorous submission process. He was responsible for completing a lengthy application, securing references, obtaining his disposition paperwork for all his court cases – which in itself is quite a feat – all while meeting stringent timelines. When he received word that his admittance to NCCC had been rescinded because of his criminal history, Walter fought even harder. He was proactive in addressing the situation and began working to secure letters of support even before YBN staffers had done so. Because of his hard work, dedication and commitment to transforming his life, Walter is now an NCCC Corps member stationed in Denver, CO. He is enjoying meeting new people and having new experiences. Most importantly, for the first time in his life, Walter is free to be Walter – not a Blood, an ex-con, or a thug – but a young man who is full of promise and has the rest of his life to fulfill his potential.