It would be an understatement to say Joseph Fordjour shouldn t be sitting at a desk, diligently studying.Joseph Fordjour, 17, has served time in juvenile hall for robbery, but in the fall will start college on a full scholarship thanks to a program at CSU Fullerton. "Now I have an opportunity to open a whole new chapter, and write it just the way I want to write it," he says. Vikki Vargas reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on June 19, 2012.
It would be an understatement to say Joseph Fordjour shouldn’t be sitting at a desk, diligently studying.
The 17 year old has served time in juvenile hall for robbery, but in the fall will start college on a full scholarship.
"Now I have an opportunity to open a whole new chapter, and write it just the way I want to write it,” he said.
Two years ago, Fordjour joined the Santa Ana High School wrestling team then went on to perform in the theatre department and won awards for rapping about the life he left.
There, he made a connection with Laron Brown, a peer mentor with the Orangewood Children’s Foundation, during a workshop that teaches 18 year olds how to survive as adults.
"Where I come from, where I grew up, it's hard out there. It's a lot of tragedy and a lot of deaths and a lot of things that you could fall into if you're not careful,” he said.
Brown saw himself in Fordjour.
"Joseph's one of those guys who has swag. They're definitely mature, and he's smart, and he's driven. He's motivated,” Brown said.
Brown’s backyard was similar to Fordjours: he, too, turned his life around with sports.
Brown graduated from California State University Fullerton as a Guardian Scholar, a program on which NBC4 reporter Vikki Vargas serves as an advisory board member.
"The guardian scholars program. It is this academic, financial scholarship, but really the connections that they make here is what’s key,” said Grace Johnson, program director.
Days before his Guardian Scholarship interview, Fordjour said Brown took him on a tour of the campus to ease his nerves.
He was awarded the scholarship.
"We know the same peer pressure that causes minors to do, really delinquent behavior out in the community. We take that same energy and turn it into what we call a positive peer culture,” said Garry Hodges with Boys Republic.
Both young men know their lives paralleled one another, and ended up in an unlikely place by many people’s accounts.
"We really didn't inherit anything. Our circumstances are different,” Fordjour said.
Because of their connection, the two are moving forward.
"I feel like I was part of that piece. I feel like I was one of the people who helped him along the way,” Brown said.