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Two teens in a police car and a teen in a prom dress posing in front of police cruisers
Stories

Two Teens Got Stranded on Their Way to Prom - Later, They Pull up in the Back of a Police Car

Prom tends to be a memorable experience for most high school kids. It is, after all, the social event of the year. But for two kids from Dunn County, North Dakota, it's not the prom itself that left a lasting impression. It's what happened on the way that turned it into one heck of a night to remember.

After Spending More Than 20 Years in Prison, Ex-convict Turned Franchise Owner Is Paying It Forward
Success Stories

After Spending More Than 20 Years in Prison, Ex-convict Turned Franchise Owner Is Paying It Forward

Sajad Shakoor may be living the American Dream, but for a lot of years, he was living a nightmare. Sentenced to life in prison at just 23 years old, his future was bleak.But then he got a second chance. And now? He's using his second chance and giving it to others. Sajad Shakoor’s Road to the American Dream Was Paved With Cell BlocksSajad was a senior in high school when he first saw the inside of a prison cell's walls. He spent the next four years in and out of jail until two robbery felonies and one fistfight later, he was sentenced to life.A victim of California’s since-amended "3 Strikes Law," it didn't matter that his third conviction should have been a misdemeanor. According to the law at the time, it was three strikes and you're out! (Or rather, in — for life). "I was in prison most of my life, over 20 years," Sajad told CBS News. "I went in when I was in high school. I went in for a third strike. My third strike was instigating a fist fight and this was a law where if you had two previous felonies, your third one no matter what it was, it would give you a life sentence."Despite the odds being stacked against him, Sajad refused to just give up. During his 21 years in San Quentin State Prison, he worked with California Senator Dave Cortese to change the 3 Strikes Law — so that a life sentence is only imposed if all three felonies are "serious" or "violent." He also completed his GED, earned his BA, started his Ph.D., and discovered a new passion for cooking. "I always loved to cook, but I became more proficient in San Quentin. I worked in the chow hall, and I learned I had a passion for cooking and education," he said.And in 2013, two decades after he walked through the prison gates, he finally walked out a free man, thanks to significant changes he helped bring about to the law that initially put him there.After More Than 20 Years in Prison, Sajad Shakoor Seizes His Second Chance and Doesn’t Let GoOnce out of prison, Sajad decided to continue working on his Ph.D. in education. He also found a job as a cook at a restaurant called Falafel Corner in Fremont, California. His cooking was so good that three years later, his manager asked him to partner with him on a new location. It was just the beginning. Sajad eventually bought out his old manager and in just five short years, he expanded the Falafel Corner into a successful franchise with 40 locations across California.Sajad credits his Mexican and Pakistani roots for his success, along with a few tricks he picked up in prison."One of the specialties and what I was known for and the reason why I have it on my menu here was the quesadilla," Sajad told CBS News. "We couldn't get cheese in prison so I used to have to make my own cheese. We'd bring back milk from the kitchen and get kitchen hats and hair nets and strain the cheese through there and let it dry."Whatever it is, it's definitely working. Falafel Corner is one of the world's largest restaurant brands (at least, according to its website). And the ex-convict turned business owner even received the Certificate of Congressional Recognition honoring small businesses.Paying It ForwardNot only has the now-50-something Sajad achieved the American Dream, but he's using his story to change the lives of others just like him. He purposefully looks for people who are looking for a second chance to own each shop."My franchise attorney... he said 'Man, you are the most unfranchise-like franchise I've ever seen in my life," Sajad said. "The fact is, I'm pulling from the bottom -- those guys need a hand. And at the end of the day, they're going to be more appreciative (of) this opportunity."He also has some good advice for people who may be feeling like their pasts define their futures. "You know, regardless of your past, just focus on your future," he continued. "Have good intentions for people and things will turn around for you. That's the story of my life. I turned my life around, I've come back and now I'm giving back. You do that, and all these doors will open up for you."For this inspiring ex-convict, that's 40 doors...and counting. More from Goalcast:Guard Refuses to Back Down Even After Prison Forbids Her From Taking Care of Inmate’s Baby – Her Kindness Gets Her FiredShe Was Born in Prison and Then Raised by a Single Dad – Years Later, She’s Going to Harvard on a Full ScholarshipInnocent Man Is Sent to Prison for a Crime He Did NOT Commit – 40 Years Later, He’s Alive to Tell His Story

Stranger Records Homeless Man Playing Piano on the Street - No One Could Have Predicted What Happened Next
Uplifting News

Stranger Records Homeless Man Playing Piano on the Street - No One Could Have Predicted What Happened Next

In that moment, the only thing she could do was take out her phone, hit record and post the video online. When the video and the story behind it emerged, it sent ripples through the world. A Street Pianist Is DiscoveredPhoto by Maria OrlovaOn looks alone, Aurore Henry had no reason to reach for the record button. After all, he was a frail, unkept 51-year-old man sitting around downtown Sarasota, Florida. His name was Donald Gould, and he carried a heavy heart. A former Marine, Gould's life fell apart when his wife died suddenly in 1998. According to PEOPLE, it sent him deep into addiction and he lost custody of his 3-year-old son Donny. He was eventually adopted by a family at age 5. Yet Henry wasn't recording Gould for his looks or story, but his sound. That's because he wasn't sitting just anywhere but at a piano. And as Henry found out, when Donald Gould plays the piano, it's pure magic. On this day, he was playing Styx's 'Come Sail Away.'"We went outside to chat and we saw him playing and it was so phenomenal that I got my phone out to start recording it," Henry recalled per the Daily Mail. That decision would take this story to new heights. How a Community Helped a Father Reunite With His SonPhoto by Vie StudioGould's performance was a success, going platinum with over 9 million views and 2 million likes. Moved by Gould's music and with the motivation to act, his fans set up a GoFundMe account to help him get back on his feet. Incredibly, it raised $40,000 in just eight days. Gould was speechless. “It’s overwhelming to me,” he said. “I can’t believe it. I’m still fighting off tears. It’s unbelievable. I never thought it would come to this."But it would be one viewer in particular among those millions that makes this story so priceless. A segment featuring Gould on Inside Edition caught the attention of a friend of Donny’s adoptive family. Word got back to Donny and after 15 years apart, father and son reconnected. One of the first things he did was set some smart goals, like entering rehab. Donny said that he's happy his father is on the right track, saying, “I want to just help him clean his act up.”It turns out that Gould would also need clean living for another big break.A Homeless Man Turned Music StarIn addition to building back his health and family, Gould's music would also hit a high note. Texas-based Triple Pop Records reached out and offered him a contract to record his first single, none other than Styx’s 'Come Sail Away.' The lead vocalist and keyboardist of Styx, Dennis DeYoung, even sent Gould his congratulations.And, in a far cry from a sidewalk show, he recently played the national anthem at a 49ers football game in front of 80,000 fans. He's released an album titled 'Walk on Water' and is putting together songs to audition on 'American Idol.' Talk about going from ashy to classy. How One Dad Proves That Second Chances HappenWhile it's been a wild ride, Gould is quick to say what -- rather, who -- he cherishes most. “There’s not a day that’s gone by since they took him from me that I haven’t thought about him," said Gould of his son Donny. “I’ve always loved him from the day he was born. I’m never going to stop loving him." That's something that a plaque can never express. In a strange way, you have to think that Gould's broken heart is also the fuel for such beautiful music. Like him, if we can find a way to keep playing despite our own pain, great things can unfold. You just need a little faith and a song in your heart.More from Goalcast:Blind 13-Year-Old Pianist Leaves Crowd and Judges Speechless on New Piano Talent Show (VIDEO)Man Finally Meets Mystery Neighbor He’s Been Playing Piano Duets With For WeeksBoy Sings Solo at His Parents’ Vow Renewal Ceremony — And Brings Viewers Across the World to Tears

Millionaire Reads About Homeless Couple in the News - Shocks Neighbors by Inviting Them to Live In His $4M Mansion
Motivation

Millionaire Reads About Homeless Couple in the News - Shocks Neighbors by Inviting Them to Live In His $4M Mansion

For a decade, Greg Dunston and Marie Mckinzie were among the 8,000 people experiencing homelessness on the streets of San Francisco. At least they were, until millionaire Terry McGrath invited them to stay with him in his home.San Francisco has an infamous issue with homelessness. While being the richest city in America with a largely liberal population, many avert their eyes and refuse to support measures to remedy the issues causing it.Down on Their LuckPhoto by PixabayBut instead of waiting on others to do something, Terry McGrath did his part to help. He read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about Greg Dunston and Marie Mckinzie, a lovely couple who defied the stereotypes of the type of who live on the street. They weren't alcoholics or drug addicts and they didn't have mental health issues. They did have disabilities -- Dunston is blind in one eye and Mckinzie has a disease that makes it a struggle to walk -- but mainly they were down on their luck."The thing that struck me and got me right away was the love between Greg and Marie and how it was able to survive in probably one of the harshest environments on earth," McGrath told ABC News. "I could feel it."So, McGrath did something unbelievable -- he invited them to stay with him in his $4 million home."There was no decision, there was no thought, there was no judgment. I was just like 'this is done,'" said McGrath, who was divorced and an empty nester so he had plenty of extra room. "I didn't vet them. These are human beings and they're not serial killers. They want to get in out of the weather. They want a roof over their head. They want to be warm."Dunston and Mckinzie were thrilled about McGrath's hospitality."We wanted to do that," Dunston said about moving into McGrath's home. "There are a lot of people out on the streets but they have no choice.""I don't want to live on the streets. A lot of people do, but I want to get in. I love to cook a lot so I wanted a kitchen, bed and shower."Marie Mckinzie Discriminatory NeighborhoodWhen the couple moved in, Taylor warned the local police force in his upper-class neighborhood that they were there with his permission. It was a good thing he did, because shortly after their arrival a neighbor called 911 on the couple simply for existing."I just pulled into the driveway and there's some strange folks hanging around the house," the neighbor said.Another called police to say, "I just wanted to notify you that this woman is sitting at Lexford and Hampton ... She's smoking a cigarette, could be drugs."When McGrath heard one of the neighbor's complaints, he couldn't believe his ears. "I realized when she mentioned the word 'situation' that she was referencing Marie and Greg. And I said, 'What situation? Are they vandalizing cars? Are they burglarizing homes?'"He continued, "I just said, 'This is one of the most offensive conversations I've ever had.'"Everyone Deserves to Have a Roof Over Their HeadsAccording to a local journalist, Piedmont's residents are 74 percent white, 18 percent Asian and less than 2 percent Black.At the time the article was released in early 2020, the formerly homeless couple had been living with McGrath for a year, and he had no plans to kick them out. "They're like family. There's no way I'm going to let them go back to the street," he said. "Most people who know me well know it's easy to start and it's hard to finish. And I'm never not going to finish."San Francisco's homeless situation is truly a national disgrace, and those who say nothing can be done simply need to see this story for proof that individual acts of kindness are possible and will help. No matter who they are or what decisions they've made in their life, everyone deserves a roof over their head if they want it.More from Goalcast:Homeless Couple Couldn’t Afford to Get Married for 24 Years – Then a Stranger Throws Them a Surprise WeddingOwner Asks Homeless Man to Leave the Premises but He Keeps Coming Back – Finally, He Decides to Take a Different Approach

Owner Asks Homeless Man to Leave the Premises but He Keeps Coming Back - Finally, He Decides to Take a Different Approach
Uplifting News

Owner Asks Homeless Man to Leave the Premises but He Keeps Coming Back - Finally, He Decides to Take a Different Approach

What would your reaction be to finding a homeless man sleeping behind your business?Unfortunately, many of us have a default reaction of skepticism or disregard to those we do not immediately understand. It is often too easy to judge others based on appearance, but one gym owner reminds us why an open mind is so important, and just how far a little compassion can carry others. What One Man Did When He Saw a Homeless Man Asleep in His CarPhoto by Timur WeberA few months ago, at the God Body gym in Memphis, Tennessee, owner Roderick Duncan noticed someone sleeping in one of his old cars behind the building. "Homeless guy, had to have been," Duncan told a publication. Duncan initially approached the car with his cell phone camera out and ready to record the encounter, telling the stranger gruffly to get out of the vehicle. He thought that was the end of the story, until the next day when he noticed the same individual, in the same spot. He again asked the stranger to leave, and he did. This continued night after night, developing into a routine for the two -- Duncan asking the man to leave his property night after night -- until he decided to try a different approach. One night he had a change of heart. "Before I could knock on the [car] window, I said, 'You know what?' I came back in here and made him a cup of coffee," Duncan recalled.What he brought to the young man was far more than a cup of coffee, but a change in mindset. Duncan approached the individual with understanding and compassion this time, and watched as he turned from a nameless 'homeless man' into a young individual with a story as unique as anybody else's -- and just as deserving of kindness. How One Cup of Coffee Led to a Beautiful FriendshipPhoto by Esranur KalayThe two shared a cup of coffee that one evening, and a relationship began to blossom. Duncan learned that the stranger was 24-year-old Bryan Taylor. He learned about Bryan's troubled childhood and struggles with alcohol, and more about his desire to change his circumstances. Their relationship grew over conversations, and soon, Duncan was taking Bryan to get a new ID, new clothes, and driving him to job interviews. Bryan even went from crashing in old cars behind the gym to a couch in Duncan's home. "Some people need more than one chance. It takes a while for most kids to stop bumping their head," Duncan admitted. However, Bryan's growth wasn't so simple. The duo have both admitted that their relationship came with its own turbulence, and required patience from both parties. For example, Duncan set rules for the young man, and tried to help guide him back on the right path, but there were setbacks at times. Trust was violated, and regained -- built back stronger. It turns out, that single cup of coffee, and change of mindset, paved the way for both men's lives to change. How a Man Proved the Importance of Giving Others a Second Chance For Bryan, the stability provided allowed him to begin taking steps in the right direction. With the trust of a mentor, and the confidence he instilled, he was able to search for jobs with a new fervor, and lean on someone for support in the process. “I’m a changed person,” said Bryan. “I got a job. I got more confidence. I got a smile on my face.” As a gym owner and personal trainer, Duncan is used to helping people work towards their goals. However, his encounter with Bryan forced him to reassess his judgement, and shift his perspective in a positive direction. What Duncan truly provided for the young man was belief. He instilled confidence in the young man, who still has a long life ahead of him. By reassessing his own implicit biases, and changing them, he had the ability to recognize that Bryan was not a threat, but just someone in need of some help -- as we all are at some point. The relationship these two developed can remind us all to keep an open mind, and always lend a helping hand when we have the power to do so. More from Goalcast:Homeless Woman Begs For Scraps In Restaurant — Customer Gives Her Leftovers Then Does Even MoreHomeless Dad Living in His Car With 2 Kids Is Fired From His Job – Then, Strangers Step in When They Hear His RequestWoman Buys Homeless Man Coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts — He Then Hands Her a Shocking Note

Man Who Got Out of Prison for the 6th Time Spots His Arresting Officer - No One Could Have Predicted What He Did Next
Uplifting News

Man Who Got Out of Prison for the 6th Time Spots His Arresting Officer - No One Could Have Predicted What He Did Next

*Featured image contains photo by Kindel MediaIt can be really hard to turn your life around. Whether you’ve had some bad blows, become accustomed to a certain lifestyle, or don’t see a clear path out, changing habits and tendencies is hard for anyone. Often, it requires a wake-up call. And that’s exactly what one Texas man got when he was arrested a few years back.Turning Around a Life of CrimeIn 2015, Doc Amey was a six-time convicted felon. But it was during his last stint in prison that he realized it was time for real and actual change. At the time, he was serving a five-year prison sentence on a gun charge, according to an ABC outlet.“One day, a cold December morning, I just looked up: I said God, if you real, like everybody say you real, you'll get me out of this,” Amey recalled.When Amey was paroled and released after a year and a half, he decided to make good on his promise.The man became involved with “The Fellowship” church in Texas City, attended the Bible college there, and earned his associate’s degree in biblical studies. He began speaking publicly about his experiences and sought out police officers in the community to pray for them as well. Most importantly, he kicked his former life, involving drugs and guns, to the curb.“You gotta be the change you want to see,” he told the publication.Seeking an Important PersonAs Amey continued his path to redemption and solidified his new life, there was one particular police officer he wanted to see again: Officer Salvador Chapa, who was the last officer to arrest Amey.“God just been giving me the urgency to pray for police officers, the same police officers that arrested me. I just got an urgency to pray for them now,” Amey explained.One day, the man got his wish when he spotted the police officer at a local cook-off. He approached without warning and said thank you. Then the men prayed together.Barely anyone noticed, except for a man named Kevin Woods. He snapped a photo of the heartwarming moment, and later the Texas City Police Department shared the photo on Facebook.Chapa was moved by the unexpected moment, too. “Touched my heart. It touched my heart. The reason it did, it sounds like I've touched his heart and made a difference in his life,” he told the publication. Now, the pair are even friends.It’s Never Too Late Sometimes it may seem like we’re at our very bottom, and there are few options in sight. But that isn’t necessarily the case. There are many programs out there designed to help us overcome and persist even during the darkest days, but first we need to learn to help ourselves.This story is so inspiring because that’s exactly what one young man did. Furthermore, he made his past right by reconnecting with those who were trying to help him or put him right along the way, helping them to feel seen and appreciated too.It also goes to show you that sometimes the person you’re trying to help might not be ready to accept your help or follow a new path. But by being there for them and continuing to support them, they may one day recognize and thank you for being the person they could count on.More from Goalcast:Realtor Turns Homeless Man’s Life Around After He Returns Lost $10,000 CheckStranger Gives Homeless Man $100 Outback Gift Card – What Happens Next Completely Changes His Life

Man Tries to Break Into an Office Building - Instead of Pressing Charges, Victim Offers Him a Job
Uplifting News

Man Tries to Break Into an Office Building - Instead of Pressing Charges, Victim Offers Him a Job

When someone breaks into your home or car, it can leave you feeling unsettled, angry, and in search of retribution. But it isn’t often that a victim feels forgiveness and understanding, which makes this story so unique.A Bungled BurglaryYouTube/CBS NewsEarlier this year, a man in his twenties named Rashawn Turner tried to break into the non-profit All You Can, Inc. in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He wasn’t successful, and he fled, and all that he left behind was a grainy photo on the security camera.Still, Turner felt poorly about what he’d tried to do, so he contacted the non-profit organizer and city councilman Ralph Rodriguez to apologize. “I have to be willing to face the consequences, and that is what I'm ready to do,” he wrote to him on social media, as per CBS News.With the case closed, many might have then contacted the local authorities or pressed charges. But not Rodriguez. He decided to take a different approach.Understanding the SituationRodriguez wanted to know about Turner and why he felt as though he had to try and break in that night.“I actually took the time to hear his story, see the environment in which he lives,” Rodriguez told the news outlet. “And I get it. Poverty has a way of pushing you to do things that you would have never imagined you were even capable of doing.”RELATED: Thief Surrenders After Stealing $10k in Tools – The Owner’s ‘Punishment’ Is Way More Extreme Than Calling the CopsIt turns out Turner had a lot going on at home, and he felt as though he had no other choice.“I made a severe lapse in my judgment that night,” he explained. “My father was struggling with basic needs, and I was like, I can't sit here and just wait for what little we still have to be taken away. I have to do something.”Leading With CompassionOnce Rodriguez understood where the young man was coming from and why he’d done what he’d done, he decided to give him a chance.He gave him some money and offered him a part-time job painting the non-profit center. He also set him up with job training to land something more steady in the future.“What he doesn't need anymore is any more disappointments,” Rodriguez explained. “I'm pretty sure people have told him things in his life and dropped the ball 10 out of 10 times. It's just not what I'm prepared to do.”RELATED: These Tattoo Artists Are Giving People A Second Chance At LifeFor his part, Turner doesn’t want to waste this opportunity and is determined to prove himself. “I thought there would be no one willing to help me, but you never know; you just have to ask," he said. “But I wasn't willing to ask.”“You just need a shot,” Rodriguez added. “And I'd be remiss if I didn't try my best to give you that shot.”Giving the Benefit of the DoubtIn life, it’s so easy to cast aside people who have wronged or hurt us. But sometimes, giving people the benefit of the doubt can be a beautiful thing. Once Turner admitted his wrongdoing and apologized for what he tried to do, Rodriguez recognized that this was a man willing to accept responsibility.By focusing on that and giving him an opportunity, he helped to change Turner’s life. Sure, there are certain situations where it is a good idea to remove yourself and move on. But this story is a nice reminder that sometimes, it’s better to hear people out and see how you can help them get their life back on track rather than cast them aside.And if you are in a rough spot, Turner proves that taking responsibility and trying to do the right thing pays off in the end. He didn’t have to confess to that attempted break-in, but in doing so, he set his life on a whole new path.It just goes to show you that most of the time, most people deserve a second chance.

16 Years Ago, He Faced Up To 20 Years In Jail - Thanks To A Judge's Verdict, He's Now A Lawyer
Uplifting News

16 Years Ago, He Faced Up To 20 Years In Jail - Thanks To A Judge's Verdict, He's Now A Lawyer

All roads were leading to prison for one Detroit man, but a kind-hearted judge decided he could have a better future instead. A big second chanceWhen Edward Martell first met Wayne County Circuit Judge Bruce Morrow, they were across from each other in a courtroom. Martell, then 27, had been in and out of trouble with the law and was facing up to 20 years in jail for the delivery and manufacture of crack cocaine.But Judge Morrow saw something in the young man that didn't deserve to be wasted in prison. So, he gave Martell three year's probation and a chance to make something of himself.“He said, ‘I challenge you to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company instead of being out here selling drugs,’” Martell recalled to Deadline Detroit. “And I love a challenge.”“Any other judge would have flushed me."Edward MartellWorked hard to become a lawyerSomething inexplicable changed within Martell. After finishing his probation, he enrolled at Wayne County Community College.“They asked what I wanted to study, and I said I want to be a lawyer,” Martell recalled to Deadline Detroit. “They laughed at me. They said with your background you should go into heating and cooling.”But he kept moving towards his dream, doing incredibly well in all his classes and exams. So well, in fact, that he earned a scholarship to a four-year college degree.However, to be a lawyer Martell would need to make amends for his long history of drug dealing. To do so, he'd have to pass a character and fitness review.“I was chasing a dream with no guarantees,” he said. “My application” – which explained the circumstances and consequences of his checkered past – “was 1,200-plus pages.”At his final hearing, Morrow, the judge who gave him a second chance, testified that Martell was worthy of passing the bar, and so he did."I sobbed like a baby."Edward MartellThe judge helped to turn his life aroundSixteen years after helping set Martell on the right path, Morrow stands by his decision. “It’s a crazy cliché, but some defendants, that’s what they need, too,” he said. “If you believe like I believe, that there but for the grace of God go you and me... It took some intelligence to get in and out of the kind of trouble he got into. I told him, ‘You could be my son. Let’s see how far you can go.’ And man, he hasn’t finished yet.”For Martell, he said his success can be seen as an example for others to follow."I think my testimony may provide some of these young men and women with some motivation," Martell said. "You plant a seed, and hope it will grow." Give more people that second chanceMistakes happen. People go down difficult paths — often due to some form of trauma — and sometimes that can lead to years in prison. But for Martell, that's not how things played out. He was given a second chance and enough support to bounce back. Now, he's a successful lawyer.This impressive turn-around story prompts the question: How many more people could bounce back with a more lenient and rehabilitation-focused justice system?More uplifting stories:4 Years Ago, He Was Homeless–Today, He Bought His First HousePoor Man Who Missed Job Interview To Save A Life Had Employers Lining Up To Hire HimDomestic Abuse Survivor Marries The First Responder Who Saved Her LifeBrooklyn Landlord Cancels Rent For Hundreds Of Tenants, Setting An Unprecedented Example For Others