Written by Gracie Krashoc and Manny Larcher

Terry Green was one of the first past prisoners to come back into the facility, serving as a motivational speaker. 

“I left in tears,” Terry said. “I saw the guys I served with and guards that I knew, but this time I was leaving in a suit and tie.”

Meet Terry Green, Founder and Executive Director of Think Make Live Youth, a community nonprofit that provides youth with mentorship and opportunities through various monthly programs founded in 2017. Present-day, Terry can see the progress of his nonprofits programs and make a difference in the lives of, in many cases, poverty-stricken communities. Still, it wasn’t always this straightforward for Terry, who dealt with trauma and extraordinary difficulties at a young age.

Terry is one of four children, with two older sisters and one younger sister. At just four months old, Terry lived with his great grandmother, who instilled his core values and wisdom through her acts of service. 

“She had a heart for raising kids, and she saw something in me,” Terry said. “She was a member of her church for over 50 years, and I watched her perform acts of kindness to people she didn’t even know.”

At the age of 11, Terry’s world shifted when he moved to Columbus with his mother and three sisters. Terry watched his mother struggle, working hard to make ends meet while struggling with addictions of her own. Despite these challenges, Terry remained on the honor roll and was involved in numerous after-school activities. 

Music was Terry’s first passion, and he participated in theatrical performances such as ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ and ‘Into The Woods.’ In addition, he was involved with youth choir, church choir, high school choir, and any class that involved music. At this point in his life, Terry’s dream was to be an artist, but at the age of 13, the realities and complexities of life deterred him from pursuing this passion.

“Reality was very tough because I watched my mom day in and day out struggle to make ends meet,” Terry said. “I was hoping to survive every day, and music seemed more like just a childhood dream.” 

At age 15, Terrys’ mothers’ incarceration left him homeless. He didn’t have a relationship with his dad, so he decided to stay with his best friend, Chaz, and his grandmother, Minnie. Now having to face this new reality and challenges, Terry regrettably’ dropped out of high school at age 16 to provide for himself. But, unfortunately, he fell into a trap that many young African-American men in the United States encounter. 

Tragedy struck Terry when he suddenly lost his childhood friend, Chaz, to gun violence. From 17 to 20, Terry was in and out of jail, serving four years in prison for drug possession and trafficking. He knew he had to do something different with his life, and there was more for him. From 2009 to 2013, Terry served out his sentence, part in prison, and then ended his term in the same halfway house program that his Mom went through, earning his GED within 90 days of being released and officially becoming a college student 180 days. 

For the next eight years, Terry took numerous opportunities to share his story of perseverance, speaking in various prisons for youth, men, and women, and his peers that he met during his time in and out of juvenile detention facilities and prison.

Terry participated in YouthBuild, a program that builds skills and offers resources to help youth reach their full potential. He went from student to mentor to active alumni and peer mentor with Franklin County and then National YouthBuild. YouthBuild started his passion for youth development alongside a course he took at Ohio State, which sparked his passion for social justice. He is now a nationally recognized Alumni of YouthBuild.

In 2015, Terry found himself homeless again, living out of his car and working warehouse jobs. Then, he got a call from a professor at Ohio State, and his world shifted yet again. She told him that the students in her class didn’t quite understand his struggle and his story of service and giving back. Regardless of his current situation, Terry’s story was one they all needed to hear. 

Think Make Live Youth nonprofit is the result of Terry’s journey and his refusal to go back to the life he knew as a child and young adult. Terry presented a slideshow to that class in 2015 and realized this wasn’t only his story; it was one that many others can relate to personally or because a friend or family member has gone through similar challenges. He started by sharing his vision at the library with anyone who would listen. He then began hosting events, including the Youth Summit, and connected the community to resources. 

Terry knows what it’s like to go through life’s challenges without support. So many Graduating students face unfathomable challenges or a limiting view of what options are available to them. What are they going to do next? This is where Think Make Live Youth comes in. Think Make Live connects young people to their next possible journey. They create and run programs across various locations around Columbus, Ohio, providing valuable training and exposure (for example, resume building and opportunities to hear directly from other professionals). The Department of Human City Services and Opportunity Youth United has supported Think Make Live Youth since 2019, and after further review of his case, Terry had his record expunged at the end of 2020! You can read about it on 10 TV and WYSO news.

They created the Social Justice Awards in 2019, an annual event that brings the community together to honor those who work and show leadership in community service, public service, education, law enforcement, restorative justice, youth justice, and legal advocacy. 

“We think about our young people making that transition from high school, and we want to be mindful of the opportunities we’re exposing them to,” Terry said. 

You can learn more and donate to Think Make Live Youth here: www.tmlyouth.org

Terry recently lost his Great Grandmother Joann Levern Green-King, who raised him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. 

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