Ex-gang member reflects on journey from jail to graduating Ohio State with honors

National News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — 2019 was a very good year for a former gang member who was in and out of jail. This past spring, Adrian Jones graduated from the Ohio State University with honors.

Jones was 16 when he joined a gang in Columbus.

“Drugs came to Columbus in ’84, ’85 and that was my first influence of guns …and you know, when the drugs came that was the first time I ever had a gun,” Jones remembered.

Jones says that’s when gangs stopped fighting with fists, bats and knives, and to have any street credibility, you had to live life like a “G” — guns, girls, and you had to belong to a gang.

“It was about being that man—and most importantly it was about survival–you know when I started selling drugs in our community you know, we had an impoverished community,” he said.

He spent the next 20 years in and out of jail. But when he got out last time, he had a GED and something was different. He started taking classes at Columbus State. He registered at OSU but was turned down because of his criminal background. He started working with the Columbus Urban League, mentioring and talking to teens about conflict resultion.

He re-applied to OSU, and this time, he got in.

Jones earned his degree in social work, graduating with honors and a 3.9 GPA.

“I had a little ego involved…I did it to show people that this ain’t who we are. The narrative that you all got about people in our community [are] criminals and gang bangers and drug dealers—no, we’re human beings and given the opportunity with a fair play and a fair stage, this is what we do.”

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