When Shane Shepherd was growing up, he describes himself as a “spirited kid” who “learned everything the hard way.”
But Shepherd defines himself now as a product of 12 years in federal prison. His sentence was for possession of a weapon -– one he never used.
While in prison, Shepherd said he met “many young men who had thrown their lives away before they even began.” The lesson was clear. “If something I do or say can help someone avoid the situations I have been in, then my job will be done.”
Those insights led Shepherd to author an after-school curriculum, Truth & Change. He teaches African-American youth strategies to make positive life choices -– choices to increase the odds they will graduate high school and reduce the odds of getting caught up in the judicial system.
Although he works full time and has children of his own, Shepherd still finds time to take his message to youth throughout Central Indiana. After work and on weekends he spends his time -- and often his own money -- mentoring. He travels as far as Muncie and Anderson to reach at-risk youth with his message.
He has also founded B4U Fall, an organization dedicated to youth from impoverished neighborhoods who live in generational poverty. Shepherd describes the work as showing a proactive and clear path toward change.
Shepherd knows a positive role model can change a child’s life. “I grew up very poor, and it was always women in my environment who made sure I ate, was clothed and behaved appropriately,” Shepherd said. He credits the owner of a local pizza chain, Miss Butler, as his inspiration.
She was “like everyone’s grandma,” Shepherd recalled. “She recognized the crack epidemic had taken my father. She made sure I could eat if I worked. So I folded pizza boxes and wiped up in her store. I appreciate it to this day.”
Shepherd worries that the community may be “unconscious” of the problems facing youth today. And, those who do recognize the problems may not grasp their gravity.
“I have a program to reach those who are considered unreachable,” he says. His wish for the community is that others will join him in using what has been described as a “secret weapon” against violence. “You cannot tell me God did not equip you to help… Get off the bench and into the game,” he urges.