By Shedeiky Hamilton
Spending five years in high school, missing prison life because of luck, Mercy College student Nathaniel Hawthorne decided to turn his life around when gang members almost killed his mother right in front of him.
“That was the worst experience ever, it was a reality check although it took a while for me to realize that,” added Hawthorne.
At 14 years old, Hawthorne was a member of a gang with other students from his alma mater, the Rye Neck Senior High School. All the other children were seniors and Hawthorne was the youngest member of the gang. He didn’t take school seriously and instead of attending classes he would smoke before, during, and after school.
As a result of his involvement with the gang members, Hawthorne did not get along with the other students and the teachers at the school.
“I use to be a knucklehead,” responded Hawthorne. I was in 5th grade hanging out with the high school kids.”
When Hawthorne got to high school, all his friends left and he was stuck in high school alone. He became a bully because he believed that children always imitate what they saw and he saw his father being a bully.
“My dad was a beast, he use to beat my mom so when I went to school I thought that was the right thing to do,” added Hawthorne. “I do not condole in it at all because I do not believe that a man should beat a woman just to be a man, I would rather beat up another brother,” added Hawthorne.
This he did and throughout high school Hawthorne and his friends bullied the children and also stole car keys and used them to open other cars. They would then go joyriding, hollow at girls and buy weed.
“When we didn’t have any money we would break into cars, go through them and if we found a phone, laptop or whatever we could sell, we took them,” said Hawthorne.
A number of Hawthorne’s friends are currently in jail while some are going through legal issues. Another of his friend got nine months in jail after a buyer who ordered 50 pills called the cop before setting up the transaction.
Hawthorne and one of his friends are the only two out of the gang that has never been in jail. Some of his friends have been shot while selling drugs and taking part in gun related issues.
“Once we started doing illegal things the other guy dropped our company, I am lucky to be alive because I have God by my side,” added Hawthorne.
Hawthorne is indeed lucky because he got away with stealing cars and selling drugs.
“I got arrested for dumb stuff like loitering or being in the park after dark, all the other things that I did I got away with it,” added Hawthorne.
In 2004, Hawthorne graduated from high school after repeating the 10th grade. He continued his role in the gang until he was caught by the Yonkers Police with a shotgun.
“It was scary,” remembered Hawthorne.
He got out of jail and was at his mom’s house, when a group of drunken guys went to his mother’s home with guns looking for one of Hawthorne’s friend.
“He dropped the gun in the middle of the street and if it had gone off it could have hit the window and my mother in the head,” explained Hawthorne.
That was an eye opener for Hawthorne because he realized that he could have gotten his mother killed because of stupidity.
“That was really painful,” remembered Hawthorne.
Since that night Hawthorne vowed that he would change the results of his future since he had already destroyed his past.
His first step was to enroll into the Westchester Community College (WCC) where he spent two years majoring in Psychology.
Hawthorne choose psychology because he believes that there has to be a reason why people do the things they do, and act the way they act. He also believes that if children are aware of the reason they do things then they will be able to correct it.
“I want to work with ‘At Risk’ kids because I was one of them,” added Hawthorne. “If it wasn’t for those who helped me I am sure I wouldn’t be here. Every good deed you do erases another.”
Hawthorne has learned that a lot of people act the way they act because they lack something. Whether it is a role model or the house they live in. He believes that if troubled children have positive people to look up to, then they wouldn’t act the way they do.
After graduating from WCC, Hawthorne’s dream was placed on hold because of financial issues. He started working in a corporate cafeteria, then Apple Bees for four years before moving on to Trader Joes. He later left that job and was unemployed for a couple months.
“I came to Mercy because I didn’t have a job, and my girlfriend said I needed to do something with my life,” added Hawthorne. “One day I was travelling on the bus and I saw an advertisement for Mercy College so I decided to give them a call.”
That call gave Hawthorne the opportunity to continue in his quest of helping others like himself achieve a better future.
“I was excited to attend Mercy because then I could start making some legal money,” added Hawthorne.
Hawthorne wants to be a mentor and hopes to one day volunteer at the Abbot House which is a group home for troubled and foster children.
“I want to help these children to see that there are more options available than committing crimes,” added Hawthorne. “I want them to know that there is excellence in education and when they are educated they can be anything.”
Hawthorne wishes that he would have made better decisions when he was younger but believes that without his past he wouldn’t be the person he is today.
“If I could change something, I would make it that everyone that grew up in poverty had equal opportunities like the upper class,” responded Hawthorne.
Being a student at Mercy has helped Hawthorne to stay focused on his dreams for the future. He is now convinced that he can help to make a difference in the lives of those children who are behaving the same way he did when he was younger.
“Gang activity is not what it is cracked up to do. It is the worse feeling ever when you have to worry about your mother’s safety, being in jail or prison, and or getting shot.”