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This Former Harlem Drug Dealer Just Graduated From Columbia

at 3:28 pm | By

He did a 6-year prison sentence for manslaughter, where he turned his life around.

former drug dealer at Columbia graduation

Credit: Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images

Norman revealed that he has had countless arrests and been to jail multiple times, with his first time being in 1967, but his most important sentencing was when he was charged with manslaughter after fatally stabbing a man. Nearly 30 years later, he spent 6 years in prison for the crime, where he learned Hebrew, read books, and helped run a program that taught inmates life skills in order to adjust back to society upon their release. He said of his time, “I had a moment of clarity in which I was able to recognize everything I had done at that point was fairly counter-productive and I needed to engage in some new activities and some new behaviors.”

He later got a job at Mount Vernon Hospital, where he helped substance abusers.

former drug dealer at Columbia graduation

Credit: Timothy A. Clary /Getty Images

Later, Norman got a job at Mount Vernon Hospital, where he assisted substance abusers to seek help for their issues. “I did a little inventory of myself to try to unearth what it was that led me astray in the beginning and what I need to do when I get home not to fall victim to this activity again,” he revealed. This is what led him to work at Columbia University, and ultimately got accepted into their School of General Studies 10 years ago.

This past weekend, he cried tears of joy while sitting in the front row.

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While graduating this past weekend, Norman was 40 years older than majority of his students, but seemed to be able to take to most of the young graduates well. “I had a good rapport with the young people because they always amazed me,” he said. He continued, “It was a great feeling,” said Norman, who has been sober for 21 years. “I’m just now starting to come down from my little high. I had to wash my clothes yesterday. That brought me back down.” This truly is a success story of someone turning their life around for the better.

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