Paris Nelson of Savannah, Ga., is grateful for the life he’s built for himself. After receiving his undergraduate degree, he studied abroad and earned an advanced degree in his field. Hard work and dedication paid off, and today he manages a hotel resort on Tybee Island, Ga., a popular beach community just outside Savannah.
By almost any standard, this never should have happened. As a teenager, Paris was going in the wrong direction, fast. By age 16, he was involved with drugs and theft and finally landed in jail. The odds were stacked against him, but his parents and attorney found Paul Anderson Youth Home.
Like so many other young men in crisis, PAYH saved Paris. Instead of a near-certain cycle of recidivism, going in and out of prison, he accepted the program.
“I needed hope and they were there to help me,” Paris said.
Resistant at first, he cites the immediate integration with the other young men as a reason he embraced his opportunity. Hearing the stories of those who were graduating soon — and who had already been in his position — helped him let go of his anger.
“I wasn’t happy there at first, but at that age in that situation, how could I be? It took a short time to figure out they could help me be the person I needed to be,” Paris explains.
Upon successfully completing the program and graduating from PAYH, Paris spent time studying in France’s hospitality and tourism industry. The lessons in discipline and constant improvement gave him the drive to study, take on multiple internships, and eventually earn a master’s degree.
Paris is one of six distinguished alumni recognized by the youth home as true success stories, living productive and positive lives and being named “Gold Medalists for Life.”
Despite his career success, Paris believes it’s not his most significant accomplishment since graduating from PAYH.
“Maintaining strong relationships and not hurting people I love and who love me is my greatest achievement. Paul Anderson Youth Home taught me to work every day to be a better person than I was yesterday. That’s their 60-year legacy that I try to live up to,” he said.
For a troubled youth who might benefit from PAYH, Paris offers some advice.
“Don’t hesitate to get help. Paul Anderson Youth Home will show you who you are, who you want to be, and they give you the tools to become that person.”
The PAYH success stories span decades, with graduates found all over the country. For more information about Paul Anderson Youth Home or to donate, call (912) 537-7237 or visit www.payh.org.
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