Motivation Monday: Ex Gang Member Now Assistant Principal!

Houston native, Tristan Love’s story is something out of a Hollywood movie.

He went from being an active gang member to the books and a full scholarship to Wiley College to be part of the reincarnation of the Great Debaters. Now, Love is one of the youngest high school assistant principals in his area. That scholarship that changed his life was thanks to Denzel Washington’s $1 million donation.

“Ten years ago, I wouldn’t even think I would be alive right now,” said Tristan Love. “You’re talking about 2006. I’m glad I made it to 21. I’m 26. I feel like I’m living on house money now.”

At 12 years old, Love was the new kid on the block. He made the only choice he thought he had: to become apart of the bloods.

“You join a gang so you can protect your family, you can protect what you have,” he explained to ABC Eyewitness News.

At the end of his freshman year at Lamar High School, he got into a fight with a Crip in the gym. That fight turned into an all-out brawl.

“I found out later that summer I wasn’t allowed to come back to Lamar,” he said.

Afraid of what his mother would say, he ran away from home and says he roamed the streets trying to stay out of trouble.

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Over the next year, two of his close friends were killed. He moved with his dad in Fifth Ward and started school at Booker T. Washington. Someone broke into his house and burned it down. He believes that was gang-related. From that, he connected with a program called Communities in Schools that made sure he didn’t drop out. They sent him to a conference in Minneapolis and he came back with a fresh outlook on life.

(photo credit: ABC News screenshot [link below])

(photo credit: ABC News screenshot [link below])

“I can’t say that I was out of the streets. I can say that my 11th grade year I was very serious about my education,” he said.

An injury kept him out of football and basketball that year–both sports he liked to play. So instead, he randomly went with a close friend to watch her in a debate tournament. Her partner didn’t show up, so she pulled him in. He says it was a natural fit and he was good.

He was accepted to his dream school, Morehouse College. But the summer after graduation, he found out he and his friend earned a full ride to debate at Wiley College, home of the Great Debaters profiled in the 2007 movie starring Denzel Washington. The Academy-Award winning actor funded the scholarships to bring the team back.

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“They called us the Great Debaters 2.0,” Love told us with a huge grin.

After graduating from Wiley, he came home through Teach for America to teach biology. Now in his fourth year, Monday was his first day of school as assistant principal. He’s only 26.

Mr. Love says he’s been very open with his students about his past and now understands he lived through everything for this moment and assignment at this school.

He hopes his choices, his consequences, his honesty and his commitment to their educational experience helps…