Be a success story

Ascension Parish Jail inmate Brian Howard and Sheriff Jeff Wiley explained to the Donaldsonville youth there is nothing cool about being in a gang.

Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley said last week the best way to stay out of trouble is to simply “run from violence.” He told hundreds of youth at the Donaldsonville Teen Summit, “if you’re around a gang, you’re in a gang.” For those who didn’t believe what the Sheriff meant, he introduced them to living testimony - Brian Howard.

Howard is a 43-year-old inmate at the Ascension Parish Jail. He was 19 when incarcerated.

After graduating high school, Howard thought he was a thug, he said to the youth. He thought he was the “baddest” thing walking on the street. But there was something “badder” than him, he said, “the judicial system.”

“I committed an armed robbery, first offender, because I took a mind-altering drug. I let my friends entice me to drink alcohol,” Howard said. “I had never drank in my life. I took that sip and it led me to drinking. It knocked me off balance, so I did something very stupid. From that one drink.”

Since that mistake, Howard has spent time in Angola prison, and several other prisons and jails while serving his sentence.

“You don’t want to go to prison. You don’t want to go to jail,” Howard said to the youth. “Don’t spend 23 years in prison like me, please don’t. It’s hard.”

With 32 months left in his sentence, Howard told the youth education is key and to stay away from the “stupid mistakes.”

He then asked the youth, “Who’s going to be your mother’s success story? Why don’t you be it?”

The Donaldsonille Teen Summit Part 1, hosted by the River Road African American Museum and Parish Councilman Oliver Joseph, welcomed nearly 500 to the Lemann Center, bringing hot-topic talks, entertainment and food – all for free.

Joseph said the event was well needed and it was definitely a success.

“The vision of it was to have 200 kids, but we ended up with over 400 that came,” Joseph said. “That’s a very positive thing for the Donaldsonville area and it shows how many parents and kids are interested in the topics we are talking about, with Stop the Violence, AIDS, and drug abuse. But on the other hand have fun as well. I’m really excited about it and can’t wait until the next one.”

Joseph said he was really impressed at how well the kids behaved and added the entertainment and all the sponsors were “awesome.”

“Our sponsors went all out for us and the City of Donaldsonville was outstanding,” Joseph said. “Everybody did an outstanding job. When we all can come together we can have positive input and this was all positive.”