Felon turned life coach speaks at high school _lowres

Photo provided by William Bradford -- Former gang member Ashanti Witherspoon, fourth from left, is surrounded by Denham Springs High School students during a recent visit. Students include, from left, Raphineas Riley, Tevin Charrier, Kade Reed, D'Andre Scott and James Morgan.

Ashanti Witherspoon, a former gang member and drug dealer who spent more than 27 years in prison, recently talked to Denham Spring High School students about the dangers of drugs and gangs and the importance of graduating from high school.

He spoke at a general assembly and later in the day with William Bradford’s U.S. history classes and some English classes.

Witherspoon shared his story of early gang violence, and an armed robbery and shootout with law enforcement that landed him in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

After years of incarceration, Witherspoon said he made a decision to give his life to God and began mentoring other inmates. His actions caught the eye of Warden Burl Cain, who would later testify on Witherspoon’s behalf before the parole board, he said.

He was paroled in 1998 and serves as an international speaker, author, mentor, life coach and pastor.

Bradford said students were inspired by Witherspoon’s talk.