Stories of Hope

Creating Their Own Master Plan

A Journey of Discovery and Hope

In the winter of 2023, a transformative spark ignited within the walls of our juvenile detention center as our youth had the opportunity to meet Chris Wilson, the author of ‘The Master Plan: My Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose.’ Each young individual was gifted a copy of his book, setting the stage for a profound journey of self-discovery and transformation.

As the pages of Wilson’s life unfolded in the dorms, a new dialogue blossomed among the youth. Ambitions and dreams sprouted, fueled by the desire to carve out a purposeful life beyond their current circumstances. Witnessing this remarkable shift, we recognized the profound impact of Wilson’s book and resolved to bring its transformative power to New York through a groundbreaking partnership with the Chris Wilson Foundation.

In collaboration with the foundation, we secured a joint grant to introduce the <aster Plan Program to New York, specifically tailored for the youth in our juvenile detention center. This program, proven successful in two other states, has become a roadmap for our youth, empowering them to envision a future beyond the confines of their past and create their own master plan.

The Chris Wilson Foundation generously funded this program, granting Berkshire the first Master Plan pilot program in New York State. A unique aspect of the Master Plan Program is its insistence on facilitators who have themselves been formerly incarcerated, individuals with backgrounds mirroring those of the youth in our care. These “credible messengers” became the linchpin in our endeavor to bring about lasting change.

Enter Angelo Maddox Jr. and Tammar Cancer, two extraordinary individuals reshaping the narrative in New York’s capital region. Angelo, a successful entrepreneur, business owner, and author of ‘Change the World by Changing Yourself,’ and Tammar, who works for the Center for Community Alternatives and is a strong advocate for youth in the juvenile justice system, wholeheartedly embraced the challenge. Both underwent intensive facilitator training, earning their certifications and becoming driving forces behind the Master Plan Program.

Two men, Tammar and Angelo, posing together indoors, the one on the left wearing a gray hat and sunglasses, the one on the right wearing a yellow sweater, both smiling at the camera.

“As I immersed myself in the training, I became acutely aware of how unresolved trauma has a negative impact on a person’s life – even more so on people in the black and brown communities where the trauma is deeply rooted in social injustices,” shared Angelo Maddox Jr., reflecting on the profound impact of the program.

“It was moving to know that my lived experiences were now going to be utilized to serve youth in a positive way – by showing them my journey and my growth, I was hopeful it would inspire them to make positive changes in their lives.”

The 13-week program started with initial hesitancy from our youth, as it tackled challenging topics like the effects of trauma on the brain, the privilege wheel, and other crucial discussions previously unexplored in their lives.

Tammar Cancer, reflecting on the unfolding impact of the program, stated, “It was a journey of self-discovery for these young people. Witnessing their growth and awareness was truly inspiring.”

This journey was marked by a joyous graduation celebration. Chris Wilson graciously agreed to be the guest speaker, and after receiving their certificates, the youth enjoyed a catered lunch.

“It was an incredible feeling to see how inspired they had become to create their own master plans. They told us how much the time we spent mattered and had a positive impact on their lives. In some cases, we were the only men that have ever shown up for them in their lives – I felt grateful to have given my time to them” – said Angelo.

Tammar was proud of the change he saw in the youth and reflected on the power of facilitating a program that goes beyond rehabilitation, sparking genuine, lasting change.

“In those moments of connection, I saw potential, resilience, and hope,” shared Tammar, encapsulating the profound impact the Master Plan Program had on him as a facilitator.

By joining forces with our community partners in this endeavor, we affirm the resilience of the human spirit and the potential for positive change, proving that through collaboration, inspiration, and empowerment, we can truly change the trajectory of a young life when we come together for our youth.