Ruben Holguin has quite a story to tell, and he relishes an audience.
“I refuse to be labeled by my past, which is why I am so motivated,” said the 28-year-old from Lynn, a former drug dealer, gang member, and incarcerated felon.
Today, he is an involved student at North Shore Community College, has won numerous leadership awards, and speaks around the country on the importance of adult education and literacy.
“I give speeches to GED students and youths on the verge of falling back on the streets or going to jail,” he said. “I tell them this is not the end of the rope; there is more to life.
“I have broken the cycle, taken the negative and made it something positive. But you have to get a degree.”
Holguin is the keynote speaker at North Shore’s 35th Forums on Tolerance, “Now What? Faces of Healing After Incarceration,” on the Lynn campus from 6:15 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22.
“I am going to speak about my past and where I am now and what I am doing to help those still lost on the streets,” he said. “I see potential in others, like people saw potential in me.”
Holguin received his GED while in jail and became involved with Straight Ahead Ministries. After his release from jail in 2012, the ministry connected him with Project Enable at NSCC, which helps former convicts succeed in college.
“I have overcome things with help from so many people, specifically the college, from the president and vice president to teachers and students,” Holguin said. “They have been behind me from day one, supported me, and never judged me.
“From then on everything has been great in my life.”
He is taking online courses this semester and also works 35 to 40 hours a week at Plenus Group Inc., a speciality food company in Lowell.
But, it was his attendance at a Leadership Institute in Washington in 2013 that set the course.
“I love politics,” he said. “I don’t know where things are going, but there will be politics in my life.”