Born in the rough parts of Brooklyn and raised in run-down shacks and projects all over the city, it is safe to say that Ralph has seen the worst that each borough has to offer. His mother battled alcoholism throughout his childhood
As a kid, Ralph struggled in school and began using drugs and alcohol in his early teens. What started off as experimentation quickly evolved into full-blown addiction. His chemical-dependency habits, along with a rapidly developing rap sheet, would dominate much of his adult life. “I was drinking a lot, spending my time in prison or on the streets, eating out of the garbage,” he recalls. “I was lost for a long, long time.”
Ralph became clean and sober in the early 90’s, but still struggled to get his life on track in the wake of several arrests and prolonged bouts of unemployment. He found ACE in 2011 through Samaritan Village, a treatment center that refers recovering men and women to Project Comeback. When he joined the ACE street-sweeping crew, he says, “I felt at home. I loved working, cleaning, feeling good about doing things again.”
Ralph soon became a visible and vocal presence at ACE, earning high marks on progress reports and spreading his infectious positive attitude to staff and program participants alike. “I cam here to improve myself,” Ralph explains.
In addition to completing employment training on the crew and our series of job-readiness workshops, Ralph opted into ACE’s continuing education curriculum. Having battled dyslexia since childhood, he worked steadily with the ACE staff to improve his reading and writing skills. “That stuff has always been tough for me, “ he says. “Now, I want to continue to go to school and I’m fighting to get my GED.” The hard work shows – at ACE’s fall 2011 Graduation, Ralph proudly read an inspiring letter about his journey, which he penned during his tenure at Project Comeback.
These days, Project Comeback graduate Ralph is working full-time on the maintenance staff at the H.O.M.E.E. Clinic in the Bronx and has transitioned to ACE’s aftercare program, Project Stay. He hopes to pursue his goal of becoming a motivational speaker, so he can share his story with others and inspire people who have been through similar struggles. “It all depends on your point of view,” he explains. “It’s about control, challenge, and the willingness to understand your right to change and accept responsibility. It’s about learning and identifying our wrong mistakes. I will continue to take personal inventory in my life when I was wrong. And don’t forget the fight’s not over. Hold your head up.”