Greening Lives Saved My Life

Travis Stone’s old neighborhood stands as a wood, concrete and stone representation of where he has been and who his is becoming. “Murphy Homes,” says Travis with pride, “that is where I grew up.”

The westside neighborhood streets cut down the middle of Travis’ life. On one side are houses that have been there for decades – the houses he sold drugs in front of, the houses that saw him thrown in jail. As he sits in the passenger seat of a car moving through his old neighborhood, the young man he used to be is directly confronting the man he wants to become.  Just like his old neighborhood, Travis is in flux but confident in the person he is becoming.

Travis is a tall young man. His chest bulges from his loose-fitting, gray T-shirt, and he walks with the confidence of someone twice his 18 years of age. His presence fits at Greening Lives Culinary Arts program.

The culinary arts program provides the daily meals for the youth residing at TuTTie’s Place. All the produce is brought in locally, and the kitchen is staffed primarily with young men and women who participate in the culinary arts job-training program.  After the 24-month program, people who once had very few prospects can now earn a food handlers license and a ServeSafe certificate that allows them to work in a restaurant kitchen.

When Travis enrolled in the program’s first culinary class earlier this year, his outlook was bleak. He had tried a number of other apprenticeship programs. After those failed to go anywhere, he said he considered going back to his old life of drugs, guns and crime. After a life with no stability, it was Greening Lives that provided him with an out from his old ways.

He has found success at Greening Lives and has made the transition from student to staff assistant. Now in a semi-supervisory position, Travis interacts with others in a calm, caring manner. That calm demeanor is not a product of his childhood. If he had continued the life he grew up in, he believes he would be one of two things – “dead or in prison.”

Travis often appears calm. He sits quietly, talking about his mischievous past with nothing more than a slight movement in his hands. He seems at peace, happy with his participation in the Greening Lives program. After driving down the street and seeing the parking lot and the dilapidated houses that defined his childhood, Travis stresses a pledge he has made to himself.

“I am going to turn my life into something special,” he said to himself. “Whatever it takes for me, I am going to do it. That is my goal. That’s it. Period.”