Three local men beat the odds, pursue their passions

The city's crime rate continues to soar and solutions are continuously sought.

Now, instead of consulting the usual people for solution, law enforcement, politicians and like, FOX 29 spoke to young men of this generation.

Guns, drugs, and killing have become an everyd ay reality in so many of our local neighborhoods.

It's become so easy for young kids to get sucked into the cycle of violence.

So how do you stop it?

FOX 29's Mike Jerrick spoke with three young men, who grew up surrounded by black-on-black crime, and learned about how they beat the odds.

"My father has been in prison since my mother was pregnant with me," Stefan Johnson explained.

His father's incarceration hasn't stopped Stefan from living!

"Even though that was a difficult situation growing up, I feel fortunate because my mom allowed me to see my dad," Stefan recalled.

From the time he was a little boy until he became a man, it didn't matter that his father was serving life behind bars for murder, or, that he had to travel several hours to see him.

What did matter was the message Stefan's father had for him.

"When I visited him, he always instilled in me that, you only come to this prison as a visitor," recalled Stefan.

If Stefan looks familiar to you it's because we first introduced you to him in 2012 as part of a TV special: "Black on Black: The Conversation Continues."

Now a student at Oxford University in England, Stefan graduated from Roman Catholic High School then Villanova University and was the lead coordinator at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, during Pope Francis' recent visit to Philadelphia.

Doubter would say there's no way Stefan, should have made it this far.

But he is quick to tell you that setting goals for yourself is the best way to get something out of this world.

"The fact, that I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, so things may be difficult now, but if I keep working at it, keep pushing, then I know that success will come."

Bruce F. Burton couldn't agree more.

A lot has also changed for him in the past four years. At that time he was just finishing up at Lower Merion High School and living over a restaurant because he chose to leave his parents' home.

"I was in a different place in my life. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do cause I Didn't go to college or anything."

What he did know was that he wanted to rap, and that he needed money to live.

"I just needed some funds to help me and stuff. I was staying with my aunt and I said I just can't keep doing this. That's why I got a trade," Bruce recalled.

Following in his father's footsteps' Bruce learned how to cut hair. He also enrolled in Empire Beauty School, where he earned his license in cosmetology. He now works as a barber while still pursuing his first love; rapping.

"I think people in my shoes, it's harder to figure out because normally you plan to go to the streets or something. I know the outcome for that, dead or in jail. So, this is a different outcome. I'll make money here," Bruce explained.

"I can still work on my dreams. At the same time I can still be authentic and I can still tell my story," Bruce said.

Or he can have Charles Watson do it for him!

He was a student at Temple University when he appeared in black on black.

Since graduating in 2014, he's worked as a TV reporter in Rehoboth, Delaware and for Verizon Fios One.

"For years I've wanted to be a journalist. I didn't know if it was possible. I kept working on it. I worked hard, I kept at it. I kept my goal in mind and I am doing exactly what I set out to do," Charles said.

While it hasn't been easy realizing his dream, Charles says he wouldn't change a thing about his journey.

When asked what he would say to his generation to help them stay the right course Charles says, "It all begins with doing, I think it begins with doing something you actually care about, actually love. Something you would do without money being involved, you know because there's passion there."

"I think you take someone like me, Bruce or Stefan and you put us in your face. We came up in the same neighborhoods that you all came from, seen a lot of the things you saw," he added.

All had the 'passion' to pursue more.