Antwan Ford knew that the road on which he was traveling would ultimately lead him to one of two destinations. Neither of which had a positive outcome. Antwan learned as early as age 15 how to navigate the streets, make money, and live for the here and now.
“I saw people in my neighborhood doing the same things day after day, standing on the same corners and having the same conversations…that was insanity to me,” said Antwan. “Even though I wanted a different life, the change didn’t necessarily come overnight. It was a process for me. But what I learned is when you seek help, change CAN come quickly. And for me, it did.”
Antwan was aware that he needed a change, but like many other teens and young adults, he didn’t know how to make changes or who to ask.
Five days after Christmas in 2010, Antwan Ford woke up in Cooper Hospital in Camden. He had slipped into a coma after being shot in front of his mother’s home on Christmas Day. Three bullets found their way to Antwan’s body while 76 were recovered from the scene. The one that pierced his neck and exited out of his mouth ended up breaking his jaw and shattering several of his teeth. With his jaw wired shut, Antwan lay in Cooper Hospital…conscious and acutely aware that his life was at a pivotal point.
Over the next six months, Antwan communicated with his family and nurses through messages scribbled on notepads. His healing process was underway, but it was Antwan’s connection to Center for Family Services’ PowerCorps Camden program that would bring real change to his life.
PowerCorps Camden is an AmeriCorps program in partnership with the City of Camden, Office of the Mayor, and CCUMA in which young adults from Camden City dedicate six months of volunteer service to revitalize the city’s public spaces.
PowerCorps Camden was the opportunity Antwan had been seeking and the pathway that would transform this energetic young man’s life. The ingenuity and intelligence that is inherently Antwan was now ignited and taking him in a positive direction. “Power Corps literally brought me back to life. Before I joined, I was that street dude whose only focus was taking what I could by any means necessary. But PowerCorps showed me who Antwan was and who he could be.”
Committed to the process and envisioning his success, Antwan, now 24, completed two cohorts for a total of 1,826 hours, and in his second term was a Lead Corps member. A natural leader, Antwan is now an AmeriCorps VISTA working with youth on job development skills. Through PowerCorps, he realized that everything he does in life has an outcome and consequences. Whether it’s dealing with the ills of the streets or working hard at a job every day, the decisions we make set our course in life and can impact the people around us. Now a father, Antwan takes this sentiment very seriously.
“I think through everything I do. I look down the line and think about how this single action could turn out. I’m so aware of my surroundings and the people around me now.”
Through PowerCorps Camden, Antwan has gleaned knowledge and skills that will carry him throughout his life. He plans to pursue a degree in Human Resources and “Become the CEO of PowerCorps one day,” he says joyfully.
“The PowerCorps staff genuinely care about you and how you’re doing from day to day—I couldn’t wrap my head around that at first. This experience taught me more than just the skills required to do the job; PowerCorps taught me how to speak in front of people, how to approach people with confidence and a professional demeanor,” he said. “It gave me a roadmap to see where I need to go. For the first time in my life, I’m looking ahead and focused on my future. There needs to be a PowerCorps program in EVERY city!”