- Associated Press - Monday, May 29, 2017

ORANGEBURG, S.C. (AP) - Orangeburg resident Kelvin Gadson reflects on the life of drugs and violence that consumed him before he decided to shoot for the stars and reach his full potential.

The 39-year-old graduated from South Carolina State University on May 12 with a Bachelor of Science in business marketing, but he said his troubled life on the streets almost robbed him of the opportunity to get an education.

“I think my life might be God’s road to redemption. From dropping out of high school in the 10th grade and chasing the life of drugs and money, I got caught up in the street life. I went from being in the paper for running the football in high school to being in the paper for running from the police,” Gadson said.

“I was doing drive-bys, shooting people. I mean, things got wild” until the time he himself was nearly killed during a robbery, he said.

Gadson was fortunate to survive being shot at point-blank range in the chest during the robbery. He said his shooter attempted to fire the gun again but it jammed.

He said he’s pretty sure it was the prayers of his mother and grandmother that covered him when he was on the streets, but added, “I wasn’t thinking about prayer. I was in the thug life.”

“After being shot and recovering, I was supposed to be in church. My mother is a prophetess, and she told me I better be in church. I sent my money, but I didn’t go to church,” Gadson said, noting that he went on to get caught up in a drug raid on Sprinkle Avenue and landed in jail.

“I was looking at 15 years behind bars. My bond was so high I had to sit in the Orangeburg County Jail for four months. Those were the best months of my life. It rehabilitated me. I was locked up with some killers,” he said, but he also found a group of guys who had formed a quartet group and had their own Bible study.

“They sang a song: ‘What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.’ And at the time, it made me laugh. That was my first week in jail. I was supposed to be out the next day, but another week passed and then Saturday night. I went to find those guys and got them to sing,” Gadson said. “I needed some encouragement; all the doors were shut on me.”

He began to see how God could open doors for him when he began to pray.

“I saw a lot of real stuff back then. I was seeing guys getting time and never coming home. I went and I prayed. I said, ‘Lord, if you get me out of this, I am not looking back.’ I had been in trouble all my life,” Gadson said.

After his release on the drug charge - all charges were dropped - he stayed on a straight and narrow path.

“As I was driving my car one day, I heard a voice say, ‘You always call on me when you’re in trouble, and I get you out. Now, call on me when you’re not in trouble and see what I can really do.’ That was my route and my stronghold,” said Gadson, who went on to earn his general equivalency diploma.

“That was my first step, my first time walking across a stage. It was awesome. I was about to settle with that. I had run for so long. My mother encouraged me and said, ‘Son, keep going. Don’t stop here,’” Gadson said.

He continued on, earning an associate’s degree through Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College’s industrial electronic technician program.

“It took me an extra year, but I got my second degree. I walked across a stage for the second time,” he said.

But, he wasn’t done yet.

Gadson is a deacon at his church, Star of Hope Apostolic Church, at 2485 Russell St. in Orangeburg. He said he shouted so much after receiving his S.C. State degree that he cracked his phone.

“I said, ‘God, you did it. I got mine,’ he said, noting that he is focusing on reaching out into the community to help other wayward youth become successful. His two foundations, Give a Child a Dream and There Is Still Hope, are the catalysts for his work.

Give a Child a Dream was started to help youth in Orangeburg, while There Is Still Hope targets helping released nonviolent offenders get back into society through everything from attending school to securing jobs.

Gadson said while he knew attending a four-year university would be a challenge, he never gave up.

“I can’t quit. If I ever start any task, that’s like inspiration for me. I just follow through. So many people start stuff and give up, but you can’t reap the harvest if you give in too quick,” he said. Gadson said that even while obtaining this third degree, he was running his lawn care and music businesses.

He had also just married his wife, Teresa, and became the parent to “two new babies.”

“I had a wife that supported me all the way. That’s very important. It was rough, but I was determined to beat the odds. Coming through the system, I was a statistic and was not supposed to be here where I’m at now,” Gadson said.

Teresa said of her husband, “I’m very proud of him and I’m very happy for him. I talk about him all the time. My co-workers have never met him, but they love him and always congratulate him. I don’t want him to stop here. I want him to go a little further.”

Gadson, a maintenance mechanic at Prime Materials Recovery in Orangeburg, said he would like to focus more on his youth foundation and motivational speaking. Wherever his road leads, he says he knows it will all be by the power of God.

“I had friends who went back to the street life and didn’t make it out. They’re not here anymore, but that’s another thing that just keeps me going. I just sit back and look at where I was at,” Gadson said.

“I could not have been here where God wants me now. It’s all because I was willing to obey his voice and listen to his word. Nobody’s perfect, but if you strive, he’ll make a way.”

Gadson said churches or youth organizations that would like him to speak about his “road to redemption” can contact him at [email protected]


Information from: The Times & Democrat, https://www.timesanddemocrat.com

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