A former gang leader who was once homeless has won a Pride of Britain Award after turning his life around.
Hezron Brown’s life spiraled into chaos at the age of 13 after he was expelled from two elementary and secondary schools and asked to leave the family home by his mother.
Brown was subsequently left homeless and forced to sleep on friends’ sofas until social services found him a place to live and he secured a place at college.
Despite seemingly getting his life back on track, the young man soon found himself caught up in gang life, owing to what he calls the “sense of camaraderie and belonging it gave me”.
Sharing his story on the Prince’s Trust website, Brown explained: “At the age of 5, I had an accident that left me physically branded by burns. It was a traumatic thing to experience at such a young age. Kids were nasty to me at school and it meant I developed a defensive and violent anger problem.
“I was kicked out of two primary schools and as many secondary schools. It was the same story at home and for a while my mum would kick me out and I’d come back, she’d kick me out and I’d come back. Then at age 13 I was out for good.
“I lived on the streets and sofa-surfed with family and friends. I was then put into temporary accommodation when I was 16. It was a really tough time and although I had my own flat and a place at college, I got drawn into gang life.”
During his two years with the gang, Brown got a criminal record and faced up to 10 years in prison for armed robbery.
However, he credits his pre-sentencing report appointment as the moment his life changed for the better, after the judge granted him a second chance after telling him he didn’t “deserve to go to prison.”
Instead, he got a two-year suspended sentence, community service, and a fine and soon enrolled in the Prince’s Trust Get Started with Theater program. After impressing bosses, he was offered a job at the theater.
“That’s when I realized I’d been given a second chance. I redid my education, I got involved with The Prince’s Trust, I became an ambassador for them,” he said.
“And the work that I was doing with them, it made me see that I wanted to share my journey with young people. I never had that positive role model giving me the right advice and that’s what I provide now for young people, through mentoring.”
The youth worker and motivational speaker now works with the National Citizen Service where he runs a 14-day program to help young people with social integration.
Over the past seven years, father-of-two Brown has shared his story with thousands of young people across the UK to encourage them to stay clear of gangs, drugs, and violence.
Brown is expecting his third child with girlfriend Jessica and hopes to set up his own company in the future.
Following the Pride of Britain Awards ceremony in London on Tuesday, Brown said: “I can’t comprehend how much my life has changed since getting involved with The Prince’s Trust. I’d never want to go back to my life before. Now I have three beautiful children and a great career. I’m finally in a happy place.”