Rolling Out

Keith Strickland stresses the importance of having change agents in new book

Keith Strickland continues to make a change in young people’s lives, and he’s now doing it with a book

Keith Strickland has always been about empowering the young generation to help them transition to a better life, and that’s what his new book, Youth Change Agent, strives to do. Through Strickland’s life experiences working across the country with schools, courts, and correctional facilities, this book teaches others how to be a resource to make a difference in the lives of future generations.

Strickland spoke with rolling out about the book and why people should have change agents in their lives.

Why did you want to write this book?

I don’t want to look at this as just me trying to attack crime and poverty, and I didn’t write the book so that we could just help our youth stay out of trouble. I wrote a book to help our youth thrive. It’s one thing to help people not make mistakes; it’s another thing to help unlock that special thing inside of a person so that they can be the best person they can be. I wrote the book after [getting] into a car accident, and I almost passed in the car accident, and it made me just think about it. If I were to pass 15 years of being in the streets, everything I learned, how I got out of the streets, all the experiences I had in that transition period in my life, and then another 15 years of working with governments all across the world, being able to develop programs that have reached hundreds of thousands of youth, all of that would have just been gone.

I want to serve God and my community my whole life, so I decided to write a book so that people could work with youth in their own families, in their own communities, and also nonprofit schools and other institutions that have people [who] come in and help them with youth. [They] can have a [cheat sheet], almost like a cheat sheet, to help people [prepare] for what’s coming. So they can be more impactful when I help those organizations.

Why should people have change agents in their life?

Everybody needs somebody in their life to help them be able to make it to the different stages in the different transition points in life. I look at myself, and I remember I started selling drugs when I was about 12 years old, and I sold drugs from 12 to about 27 on and off. In that [period], I served for about five years and stopped going to school in ninth grade, so I was more educated in a street environment than I was academically. I was on my own as a young teenager. I didn’t grow up with the nurturing of a family environment, so I learned how to hustle, and I learned how to be a criminal more intensely than anything else in my life.

If people had not come into my life and believed in more for me, and spent time with me, invested in me, shown me different ways to live, shown me just how to be more than what I had been exposed to up until that point, who’s to say I ever would have changed. Those [agents intentionally activated] and unlocked the best in me. I think for every child, it doesn’t matter if they come from [a disadvantage] or they come from privilege; every child needs somebody who says I’m committed to watching you be your best self. If you think a child can grow without [somebody], that’s an unrealistic expectation. That’s why so many of our kids join gangs and become a part of negative environments because they grow and they build a relationship and nurture it. It’s us who don’t.

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