Isaac Soler: Success Story

Arrested at 15 for selling drugs, he's drug-free now and ready to study fashion.
Isaac Soler: Success Story
Isaac (left) with Senior Youth Worker Nelson Valentine

Recipient of AFJ/ Andrew Glover Youth Program’s Second Chance Award, 2008

Isaac was born in 1991 in East Harlem, to a 15-year-old mother who abandoned him for drugs. His father has been in prison for most of Isaac’s life. Still, Isaac had a stable force in his life: His grandmother stepped in to raise him and his sisters. But in a neighborhood where the rates for both poverty and drug use are double that of the rest of the city, Isaac had to grow up quickly.

Increasingly it fell to Isaac to support his family. He got through the first two years of high school but he was learning even more from the streets. By the time he was 15, he was arrested and charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree. Four days after his sixteenth birthday, he walked into the Andrew Glover Youth Program, mandated there by the courts.

Because he had been so independent, Isaac didn’t find his mandate easy to take at first. The Glover counselors provided constant daily supervision, including calls and curfews, home visits, counseling, workshops and tutoring. They also worked out an arrangement with the court: If Isaac could stick with the Glover Program for two years, he could have a Youth Offender status instead of a criminal conviction.

After two years, he made it. Isaac hasn’t just beaten a conviction, he’s demonstrated authentic transformation. He no longer uses or sells drugs. He’s had no more arrests. Instead he’s completing a GED program so he can go to college to study fashion design. He’s learned that he can overcome the odds and make a positive difference. It’s a lesson no jail would have taught him.