Beyond Emancipation


devaugn “I am happy to be one of the ones to actually make it through the community college process,” says DeVaughn Gray about graduating Merritt College with his AA in May 2014. He is proud and excited to transfer to Cal State East Bay in Fall 2014 as a Criminal Justice major. His goal is to become a youth probation officer.

Gray says he takes all opportunities he can and takes nothing for granted. He values making the right choices that will lead him to success. He is clear on his goals.

“I want to finish school with a strong GPA, and I want to get on the Dean’s List”. He wants to reach his full potential as a man, hold down a job, and be able to take care of his daughter and family.

“I don’t want to see my family struggle forever. I feel like it is time to break the cycle,” said Gray.

“I want to be a mentor, not only a probation officer,” says Gray. He believes that most folks just need someone to listen and talk with them. He wants to be able to counsel youth, just like he was helped. Gray says being removed from his home, going to juvenile hall and being placed in a group home was a wakeup call for him. He didn’t have a strong positive influence in his life and realized there were consequences for his actions. He began to value his freedom and future.

devaugn_photostrip When asked to define success, Gray says: “Success is being able to be happy for the most part. Being happy with yourself and pat yourself on your back, even if nobody else pats you on your back.” He also notes that being able to see your accomplishments and appreciating what you worked hard for is success. He acknowledges that a lot has been offered to him and he is glad he took advantage of all the opportunities he could. Gray says that if it wasn’t for B:E’s support, he would not be where he is right now.

Gray first connected with B:E in 2009 after he left his group home. Since then, Gray has participated in B:E’s two-year b2b program and two New Beginnings Fellowships. He also interned for B:E as the New Beginnings Program Support Intern. Gray says that the programs have provided him with great experiences and gave him hope for a better future. He said he appreciates the opportunity to network and build relationships with “folks that matter,” and learn skills to keep himself organized. One of the greatest tools he said he learned from b2b and New Beginnings is how to have one-and-one conversations with important people and have relationships with his elders.

Gray says when he first started participating in the b2b cohort he didn’t quite understand the coaching process or purpose. After time went by, he says he gained confidence, opened up, and developed relationships. He met people who were facing similar or worse situations. “It started to feel like a family environment,” said Gray. “It really opened my eyes. If they can do it, than I can do it. They were facing worse predicaments than me. The sessions became really real,” says Gray.

Gray says that at first going to school consistently and doing homework was a challenge. “Even though I was in college, I wasn’t college ready,” said Gray.

B2b was his anchor for a period of time when he really needed it. It was there when he was looking to find himself and find how to live. One of his proudest moments, outside of finishing the b2b program, was when it came time to petition for graduation. He made a plan and executed the tasks himself. The feedback he received from peers and teachers who proofread it validated his self-sufficiency and how far had come in life. He still keeps a copy in his backpack as a reminder. “It is something I did myself, something I cherish, and I know I did a good job,” says Gray.

Gray says he appreciates being part of the New Beginnings Fellowship because he knows it was an experience that most people don’t get.

“It helps you get that professional experience while getting paid,” says Gray. He said he felt so good dressing up in business attire with his county badge. On the bus people would ask him what he was doing and he would proudly tell him he was an intern for Alameda County.

“The New Beginnings program is something I want to see go along as far as it can, expand to other counties, be an opportunity for more people. The opportunity is grand,” says Gray.