From ‘attempted murder’ to counselor: Trenton man empowering change in others
He led a criminal lifestyle, landed in jail in 2000 for attempted murder, and served eight years.
Today, as a drug and alcohol counselor, Trenton resident Juan Rolon works daily to help troubled individuals avoid returning to their old habits.
The 38-year-old figures that sharing his own story of turning his life around can inspire others to make a similar about-face.
"I've seen it firsthand, what drugs can do to a community, a person and someone's family," Rolon told New Jersey 101.5. "We do recover. It doesn't have to stay the way that it is right now."
Rolon has been substance-free since he was incarcerated at age 18. Being in prison, Rolon said, forces many people to find the "best version of themselves." But it's hard to keep the momentum going upon release, he noted.
"A majority of them may have a drug-infested environment to return to," he said.
So, Rolon is in the process of creating a "bridge" for individuals coming out of incarceration or treatment centers. As president of Empowerment House, a Trenton-based nonprofit launched in 2018, Rolon is attempting to secure a home where individuals can receive services for up to a year.
"They can relearn or learn the basic life skills needed to reintegrate back into society," he said. "They don't have to cross back over to that negative environment."
Rolon said he's been struggling to get the attention of local officials in order to make his housing goal a reality. The nonprofit has launched a GoFundMe campaign for assistance with future events and acquiring a house.
In the meantime, the nonprofit is educating the community about drug addiction and overdose. Empowerment House in 2020 held its first "Partying Sober" event and plans to host another in 2021.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org