When he was young, Stephon Martin was nicknamed “Smiley”. He smiled all the time. He grew up playing football and golf in the fields near his home with the other neighborhood kids. “It was a happy time,” he remembers.
But when Stephon got older, he began hanging with kids who were selling drugs and guns. At 18 he ended up in the penitentiary. “I spent seven years thinking about what I could have done differently.” When he got out it was hard to find a good job. “It hurt me to the core.”
When a friend suggested looking into the Building Value program at Easterseals Redwood, Stephon made an appointment. “I wasn’t leaving that interview until I got the job,” he says with determination.
“The first time I met Stephon, I knew the guy was golden,” says his supervisor, David Rich.
When he eventually was offered a better paying job with a major Cincinnati contractor, Stephon turned it down. He said he wanted to continue working with Building Value and mentoring younger employees.
“I just want to give back to the community,” Stephon explains. “I want to help these kids avoid the mistakes that I made, help them get off the street, out of abusive relationships, to break free, and gain success. It’s part of what we stand for in Building Value.”
“I always wanted to be a leader,” says Stephon, his smile now returned.