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From drugs & violence to a much higher calling: Arkevious Armstrong creates program for troubled

Mugshot of Armstrong as a teen

During the late 80’s and early 90’s, the divulgence of life was a bit spicier for a child. Waking up on an easy-flowing Saturday morning was the it factor for a kid. Well, for most kids.

Arkevious Armstrong didn’t experience that anxious joy… not by a longshot.

“Growing up in Gastonia, NC, my mom had six kids, four boys and two girls. We [siblings] were never around each other. We were split-up and living with different relatives.

To have a mother relying on drugs, heroin to be exact, and then when crack cocaine came in 89, the epidemic took an effect on her—for some reason it took my mother to a different place. Both my mother and father were heroin addicts.”

Photo Credit: INterrupted

Consequently, Armstrong believes that his life of crime began as a result of his environment.

At about twelve-years-old, he would go to the mall and shoplift, shoplifting turned into breaking and entering, in addition to selling marijuana and crack.

“I got drunk, smoked weed and cigarettes. I thought I was the coolest thing in the streets, doing what I wanted to do," said Armstrong.

His domineering nature and arrogance preceded him as a youth; however, the underlying reasons for his menacing behavior surfaced throughout our conversation.

Armstrong suffered from child molestation and psychological abuse that he talks about openly, to help encourage others (children) to be comfortable in their truth.

"I’m transparent. My life is an open book, and that chapter is a chapter for another person, to get through the next phase of their life.”

Enduring mental abuse and physical abuse by his dad, including witnessing drug transactions at six and seven-years-old, the young Armstrong began to change negatively as he got older.

“I would see people in the living room shooting up heroin. When I would go out to play, I’d see caps, little bags… and even needles,” he said.

Drugs is all that he acknowledged… that’s all that Armstrong knew.

“At twelve, I was making maybe two or three hundred dollars a day, working in a dope house. There were times that we didn't have lights at home—my reality was reality and it wasn’t school. Nothing in school could teach me how to survive in the streets, and that was my reality. I became prone to my environment,” he said.

“At the age of thirteen, I had my first attempted murder charge.”

Armstrong, actually did four years as a juvenile in C.A Dillon Youth Development Center (Butler, NC), and was released.

“Once I was sent off to Dillon, I got out and started doing worse things than before.

At the age of 19, he picked up a second attempted murder charge.

In 2001, Armstrong received a 10 year plea and served 5 1/2 years in Federal prison before getting released in 2006.

He declared that if he ever got out, his life would change for the better.

For 7 years [after being set free] he worked passionately as a devout mentor throughout Mecklenburg County, helping teenagers.

In June of 2013, he persevered, creating his own program for at risk students.

The hot-headed kid who shook the town of Gastonia, NC, is now a respected mentor and founder of the “Step Up To Leadership" organization. A mentorship and development program that targets teens of the mêlée, troubled adolescents who struggle

with difficulties, correction, and decision making much like himself.

Photo Credit: INterrupted

Corinthians 13:11 "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

Armstrong didn’t get counseling or assistance for his shortcomings. He feels that his circumstances might've been different if he would've received positive reinforcement, instead of bouncing around from one house to the next, foster home to group home, before landing in prison.

He's offering strategies and education to the students... guidance that he never had.

Photo Credit: INterrupted

The 35-year-old empowerment and motivational speaker describes himself as compassionate and highly insightful, which allows the program to sustain morality and life, making it easier for the consortium to flourish.

Photo Credit: INterrupted

Step Up To Leadership travels to local schools throughout Mecklenburg and Gaston County, mentoring students in different areas.

The organization partnered with Habitat for Humanity, ASEP (Afterschool Enrichment Program), prison ministries, CMPD (Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department), The Call-In Program, Department of Public Safety and Charlotte Mecklenburg Sherrie Department; including the Crisis Assistance Ministries, Youth Empowerment Groups, and Boys to Men Workshop.

The businessman is also to the "Step Up To Leadership" Clothing Apparel.

The teen advocate said that it wasn't easy diving beyond technicalities and red tape.

Many organizations shunned what he was trying to do for the children, while others embraced him as an authentic person who could get through to the younger generation.

He related to young people on a personal level, by not being just another face of propaganda or media publicity.

Armstrong overcame his waywardness to become an exemplary man of integrity as well as a teacher of principle.

Self-reflecting from bars that once held him captive to his environment...

Click name bar for more information about Arkevious Armstrong:

Instagram: Stepup_toleadership

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