Life was good for Shaw, now 19, during his high school days. He was captain of Mastery Charter’s basketball team and was a member of the National Honor Society.
Kasim Shaw’s mom always knew he had it in him.
“His hard work was nothing but faith,” said Izetta Shaw. “At first he lost it. He’s a boy, well, a young man now, and I believe from the trials he went through through high school lowered his self-esteem and lowered his pride, and he felt like he couldn’t handle it. I always told him, ‘I always believed in you.’”
Life was good for Shaw, now 19, during his high school days. He was captain of Mastery Charter’s basketball team and was a member of the National Honor Society. He got straight A’s. Shaw had an astute work ethic, but the thing he didn’t have was money. So he turned to the streets.
“I was a senior at Mastery Charter and left near the end of the year. There was non-stop chaos. It was dangerous, and the trouble came to my doorstep,” he said.
Shaw was caught selling drugs and was forced to drop out of high school only three credits short of getting his diploma. To add insult to injury, around the same time in early 2017, his 17-year-old brother was gunned down on South 7th Street right before his eyes.
“I lost it all,” he said.
It seemed like a nearly impossible feat to get his life back on track, but he decided to look into a program called The Choice is Yours, a 13-month prison diversionary program that offers nonviolent drug sellers a chance to avoid prison and a permanent felony by completing the program. The program is run by JEVS Human Services, which seeks to “strengthen communities by realizing their highest quality of life through the achievement of personal and vocational potential.”
Shaw enrolled in the TCY program and will complete it this summer.
“TCY taught me how to learn and understand my values,” said Shaw. “I learned how to be more family oriented, better communication skills, I learned how to deliver, self discipline, and I learned how to leave things at the door.”
According to TCY, the program, which is offered at no cost to the participant, costs $5,200 annually per participant while the annual cost of incarceration is approximately $41,000 per person. As a result, the program saves taxpayers approximately $35,000 per person, per year.
Kristen Rantanen, senior vice president, Communications and Public Affairs at TCY, called Shaw a “superstar.”
“He had a little bit of a rough start in the program,” said Rantanen. “He lost his brother soon after he entered the program last summer and that was a bit of a bump for him. But I think that it was also a wake up call for him. It really made him commit and focus on doing what he needed to do.”
With the help of TCY, Shaw was able to graduate this past Friday with his high school diploma.
“I’ve been working so hard in my life to get to where I’m at right now,” Shaw said. “Now that I’m back where I should have been, it feels good. It’s an honor. I’m focused now. My focus is 10 times stronger. I’m more ambitious. My vision is not blurry anymore. I’m just ready to accomplish everything I need to accomplish.”
On top of that, Shaw recently welcomed into the world his new baby daughter, Sevyn.
“I’m going to be the best man for my daughter I can be,” Shaw said.
“I walked over from the program offices to City Hall with him and it was the most amazing experience because he had his cap and gown on, people were high-fiving him, congratulating him, a man stopped to shake his hand,” Rantanen told the Star at Shaw’s graduation. “And he’s got a little girl now, so his life is all in front of him and the sky’s the limit.”
Shaw said that because he’s good with science and math, he hopes to become a civil engineer one day.