(NewsNation Now) — Edward Martell is living proof your past doesn’t have to doom your future.
In 2005, he was facing up to 20 years in a Michigan prison at age 27 for selling and manufacturing crack cocaine. It wasn’t his first offense either, as he had dozens of run-ins with the law dating back to his early teens.
But instead of walking out in handcuffs, Martell left with three years of probation and a challenge from Judge Bruce Morrow to go out and do something with his life.
Then 16 years later, Martell was sworn in to become a lawyer himself — by that very same judge.
Morrow told NewsNation in late May he immediately saw something special in Martell and thought their fates could have been reversed.
“With everything that had gone wrong in his life up to that point, he had this optimism that was contagious,” said Morrow. “And for him to still be able to have a positive attitude about himself, I thought it was remarkable. I said to myself ‘This is somebody who can teach me something.’”
Looking back now, Martell says it’s all still very surreal.
“I still have to pinch myself when I wake up in the morning and go to work,” he said.
Martell said he was nervous about one requirement for passing the bar in Michigan in particular, which requires applicants to go before a panel and explain why they have the character to become an attorney.
But after changing his own life, he says he hopes to change the system and serve as an example for others.
“Do not let your past or even your present situation determine your future – find your purpose, set small goals, set long goals and accomplish your purpose,” he said.