At last week's Ready, Willing & Able Graduation ceremony, Shahid Guyton, a 2013 Graduate, delivered a memorable speech detailing his journey from the streets to independence and self-sufficiency. Below are his remarks from the event, including a poem he wrote and performed (with his signature beret, replacing the traditional graduation cap).
Good evening, my name is Shahid Guyton and I am so proud to be here tonight as a Ready, Willing & Able Graduate! I want to thank Mr. Jordan and the staff at Ready, Willing & Able for helping me get to this stage, and thank you to all of you for being here and showing your support.
This journey for me has been long and challenging, but I have learned so much. I have been through programs like this in the past, but I was never able to make the changes to my life that I have made now. In the past, I moved from city to city, hoping that would be the difference I needed, but I always ended up in the same situation, just in a different place.
I can remember went I got to Philadelphia, seeing the guys cleaning LOVE Park and once I found out who they were, I wanted to be a part of that too. I was staying at a treatment facility and told them that I wanted to go to Ready, Willing & Able.
My case worker said that she thought the same thing, and that this program would be the best fit for me. When I got here, it clicked right away. It was definitely hard at times, but I knew from the beginning that I was on the right path.
Now, I am living on my own and earning money. I have always had a good relationship with my children and I shielded them from my personal problems, but now we getting closer and closer, and our bond is getting stronger and stronger. I don’t recognize the man I used to be, and I won’t ever go back to that again.
When I was younger, I spent a lot of time in and out of jail, and I went back so many times that people actually started to recognize me. For the other men who were incarcerated, I had actually developed a positive reputation…for the bad things I had done. At that point in my life, that seemed normal to me, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that.
I visited the building last week and had people coming up to me who I have never met before. These were guys who started here after I left and they knew me. They knew me for things that I am proud of: hard work, creativity, and perseverance.
I am a role model now, and so are all of you! The guys who are still at Ready, Willing & Able, and family and friends are going to look at us to set an example and I am happy to have that responsibility for the first time in my life.
One thing that I have always been passionate about and has helped me through many hard times is poetry. I love to write and perform to express myself and deal with my emotions. I thought what better way to close this chapter in my life than with a poem I wrote. I would like to perform it for you now, it is simply titled ‘Ready, Willing & Able’:
Ready, Willing, and Able, the name alone says it all.
Many of us were chosen and many of us were called.
I can remember when I was unready, I was unwilling, and unable
unstable, not able to bring anything to the table.
The structure RWA provides if willingly accepted prepares you for society,
no longer hopeless focused, my doubts lied to me.
It’s better to be prepared and not have an opportunity than to have an opportunity and not be prepared,
and it’s easier when supported by a staff who proves how much they care.
Allowing help to help you, opening your mind up to information and recognizing the obstacles life presents,
believing in yourself worth and willingly able to re-invent.
The man that won’t allow the boy in him to make grown up decisions,
ready, willing and able to convict your life to your vision.
Understanding the process of re-inventing the man you are to become, embrace your past but live for now.
Are you ready willing and able to stand on solid ground?
I’m ready for whatever comes my way,
willing to fight not able to run away!
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in this process its independence, how to be self-sufficient.
How to be responsible for my own actions, how to be persistent.
Ready I am to live life on life’s terms,
willing to make the sacrifices I need to earn.
What I am more than able to achieve,
great things comes to those with faith indeed!
I’m unbreakable, we’re unbreakable, Ready, Willing and Able we are!
The sky is not the limit, set your sight beyond the stars!
We are Ready, Willing, and Able; full of hope no longer hopeless,
powerful, not powerless, but focused.
Be real with yourself, life is not a fable.
Nothing is impossible as long as you stay Ready, Willing, and Able.