Desmond Meade's inspirational story could be straight out of a major motion picture.
The 46-year-old went from serving as a soldier, to an inmate and even experienced homelessness. But despite those challenges, he managed to earn a law degree. Now a married man with five stepchildren, Meade received his Juris Doctorate degree from Florida International University last Friday. He told The Miami Times that his trials and tribulations have inspired his turnaround.
"I realized all the pain and suffering I went through all my life became worthwhile when I used it to help someone else," he said. "I realized that was my purpose — to help those less fortunate."
A string of unfortunate events -- including dismissal from the U.S. Army, his mother's death, foreclosure on his family home, and a fifteen year sentence for possession of a firearm as a felon -- led Meade down a slippery slope to homelessness in the streets of Miami, and eventually prompted him to attempt suicide.
“When you’re homeless, there’s a harsh emotional aspect,” he said. “No one really cared one way or another if you lived or if you died.”
After successfully completing the Chapman Partnership's drug treatment program -- where Meade attributes learning to love himself again -- he graduated summa cum laude in paralegal studies from Miami-Dade Community College’s North Campus in 2010 and later enrolled in the law school at FIU.
But Florida state law prohibits convicted felons from practicing law, voting, running for political office, and serving on a jury, and rather than moving to another state, Meade is determined to stay in Florida and change that.
“I’m going to stay here. I’m going to fight. What I went through to get where I am today, I have no choice but to have faith.”