Two Escape Troubled Past To Help Youth
MILWAUKEE - He's a former prisoner. She's survived domestic abuse.
Together they are working to shape Milwaukee’s future in a way that is positively Milwaukee.
A typical family scene: mom listening to her child read. Audrey Fraylon says her family met a miracle, and he's Lawton Avery Merritt.
Merritt's a minister, motivator, writer and a mentor to Audrey’s oldest son Michael.
"Some people are put in your life to change your life. Some people are put in your life to touch your life. For me, he’s done both,” Michael Rowell said.
To get here, Merritt himself escaped a troubled past.
TODAY’S TMJ4’s Carole Meekins: “Lawton, I find it amazing that a man who served time in the penitentiary is now devoting himself to helping others. That’s beautiful.”
"I make no secret I lived a very dangerous and corrupt lifestyle. I was gang affiliated, drug dealing, pimp, gangs and just did a lot of negative things,” Merritt said.
Merritt has written a book about his life and has even come up with a teaching curriculum to help kids stay on the right path.
“I just think god in the midst of all that to come through and to realize that now is the opportunity to be able to help others,” Merritt said.
Lawton first met the family five years ago. He saw promise in Michael early on. Today, Michael passes on his wisdom working with teens.
"I need to give other people hope!" Michael said.
"Whatever you keep to yourself you die with it, but if you share it, it lives on forever. It becomes eternal,” Michael said.
Today, Audrey Fraylon is working on her GED. She says it was Lawton who inspired her.
"He keeps me on track with my education as well as motivate me to go on and do other positive things in life,” Audrey Fraylon said.
Both Audrey and Lawton devote hours to ministry. Audrey holds bible study classes inside her home. Both preach to the young against drugs, violence and sex.
“You don’t have to give kids much. They actually just want to be loved and supported and talked to and listened to as well,” Audrey Fraylon said.
In these days of negative news, it's heartwarming to see a family empowered. The smiles, the hugs, the love, a human connection made stronger by Lawton Avery Merritt, a miracle worker.
“It’s been an honor to be a roll model, to mentor them and to challenge them. I thank God for both of them. I love them both,” Merritt said.
Audrey teaches a number of bible classes from her home. They deal with everything from self esteem to abstinence.