NEW YORK – A 67-year-old man who dealt drugs, was addicted to heroin and killed a man earned a degree from Columbia University last week.
David Norman grew up in Harlem. He told WBUR both his parents were addicted to heroin.
“It’s what everyone I knew did,” Norman told WBUR. “At that particular time, I didn’t have the foresight to see where this was leading and where this was going.”
Norman became addicted for 35 years. During that time, he was charged for several crimes ranging from robbery to drug trafficking.
He was spent six years in Mohawk Correctional Facility after he was charged with manslaughter in 1967, after fatally stabbing a man during a street fight, according to the New York Daily News.
He passed the time in prison by reading.
“I had a moment of clarity in which I was able to recognize everything I had done at that point was fairly counter-productive and I needed to engage in some new activities and some new behaviors,” said Norman.
Soon he was running educational programs for his fellow inmates, according to WBUR. He was released from prison in 2000 and has dedicated his life to helping others ever since.
New York Daily News reports Norman was accepted into the Columbia School of General Studies ten years ago. He also worked at the school full-time, helping to track subjects in community health program.
Last weekend, he earned his degree from Columbia, along with the title of oldest graduate of the 2016 class.
“It was a great feeling,” said Norman.
Now that he has earned his degree, he plans on helping other people like him.
“[T]he population I want to work with doesn’t require degrees, they require some humanity, some caring, and someone to believe in them,” said Norman.