One truancy at a time: Former gang member works to change lives

Deangelo Collier is a former gang member who is now a truancy officer. He's working to change the lives of others (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
Deangelo Collier is a former gang member who is now a truancy officer. He's working to change the lives of others (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A former gang member hopes to turn around lives of middle school students by working side-by-side with them.

"I'm a former gang member and I've been to jail before, because I was hanging around the wrong crowd," said Deangelo Collier, who has made some big changes to his own life.

In 2014, Collier said he reached his breaking point.

"My little brother died of gun violence and I knew I had to make a change and I knew that I had to give my life to God," he said.

At just 23 years old, Collier is working as a truancy officer and encouraging kids to stay in school and make positive choices.

"I said, 'What's up man? This is not the way to go. These gang members don't care about you,'" he explained.

Collier said he can relate to these kids after living his own rough life. His work at Georgian Hills Middle School has helped to reduce the truancy rate by 25 percent over the last school year. The school now has a 21.4 percent truancy rate.

"I think that has contributed to the work that Mr. Collier has done in that school," Truancy Program Director Megan Pietrowski said. "They can easily relate to him and he has been a huge benefit."

Collier hopes his story can encourage others. He has a message for people heading down the wrong path.

"You're only going to end up in jail or the cemetery if you hang with the wrong crowd," he said.

Collier was the first in his family to finish college. He's also written a book about his story. You can learn more about it by clicking here.

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