“It’s never too late” is certainly a cliché, but it does hold an influential credibility.

On May 16, David Norman, a 67-year-old former Harlem drug dealer, graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and begun a career in public health.

From the beginning…

David Norman

Photo courtesy of hereandnow.wbur.org

Norman’s early years involved alcohol consumption at the age of 11, and a heroin addiction that was driven by the environment in which he grew up.

Moreover, as a result of seemingly endless drug trafficking and robbery engagements, Norman was arrested multiple times. But that’s not all — Norman faced manslaughter charges after a 1995 altercation that went from “you owe me some money for what you took” to “…I had a knife and I responded.”

How things changed… 

David Norman

Photo courtesy of nydailynews.com

According to CNN, Norman volunteered as a counselor for a transitional services program following his release from prison. The program “helps freed inmates transition back into society,” through teaching the importance of setting goals and providing life skills and guidance for job interviews.

“If we’re attempting to make this a better society, we have to admit that we need to make people better. And regardless of what your past has been, I always think it’s a good thing to look to the future and try to find ways to improve your situation,” Norman said in an interview with Here and Now.

Obtaining a degree from an Ivy League college is a challenging goal to achieve, even to those whose early days were untarnished. Therefore, it’s only right for one to truly acknowledge the constructive mindset that Norman invited into his life in the pursuance of a positive transformation. Though he could’ve stuck to his old ways, he decided to take a different route, one that often seems imaginary to those who’ve had an immeasurably rough past.

Norman was able to ameliorate his future through a change in outlook, but it doesn’t stop at that — he continues to assist those who have also been behind bars.

He works as a research assistant at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.