“Sentenced to Hope”

Published 04-04-2022 in

Deej White was a young man troubled by obstacles put in his path since birth. It was when he first began volunteering at the Reeb Avenue Center, while incarcerated as a juvenile, that he began to find hope for his future. While on the job, Deej met Executive Director Ally Zahler had the opportunity to serve Reeb Avenue Center Board leaders Jane Grote Abell and Tanny Crane, who were impressed by his professionalism and personability––not believing he was incarcerated at the time. Since then, Deej has become part of the family.

Since receiving the support of the Reeb Avenue Center, Deej has reentered society and was the sole awardee of the Ohio Youth Achievement Award by the Ohio Department of Youth Services and the 2018 Special Judges Award in Baltimore, Maryland. He has gone on to spread his gift of poetry by performing around Columbus, including the Ohio Theater downtown and at The Ohio State University’s 40th Annual African-American Heritage Festival. He has also founded Speak Your Mind Tuesdays, an open mic night held at local coffee shops all over the city for young people to find refuge and inspiration. Deej is also a mentor to young people coming from his situation with his work for Think Make Live Youth, a nonprofit focusing on developing formerly-incarcerated young men.

Today, Deej is currently employed full-time and recently started his own business based out of the South Side, a roadside assistance company called Close By Roadside Assistance. He spends his limited free-time traveling the country and sharing his story with young people to inspire hope in the way the Reeb Avenue Center inspired him.


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