BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Thaddeus Canty preaches powerful messages to inspire young Brooklynites to make better decisions than he once made. 

“They came to a point where they were misguided for whatever reason, and this is the point where they can be able to change their life around from seeing it through myself," Canty said.

He’s a youth mentor with “Next STEPS,” a citywide initiative designed to help young people focus their energy elsewhere, and avoid the streets - something he wishes he had when he was a kid. 

Canty grew up in Brownsville, and at a young age often found himself getting into trouble. Before becoming the mentor he is today, he was incarcerated four times. During that last sentence Canty made a promise to himself.

“One day when I woke up and I looked in the mirror I just really didn’t like what I saw, so it was that epiphany right there that allowed me to make a conscious decision to change my life around," Canty recalled.

He received both his associates and bachelors degrees while in prison and adopted a completely new mindset.

And when he was released in 2016, he made it his mission to prevent the city’s youth from committing crimes.

“I don't want them to get to the point where they’re laying on their back and looking up at the ceiling in their cell and having my words reverberate in their minds," Canty said.

Thaddeus approaches strangers he finds on the streets and befriends them. 

To continue creating bonds with STEPS participants during the pandemic. And even though larger events were canceled, he hosts daily Zoom workshops for anyone that wants to join. 

“My mother loves when i'm around them because they’re just good influences, they want just want the best for me and want to support me," said Shaquille Campbell, a participant. 

Thaddeus says that watching Shaquille and the next generation succeed is the most rewarding achievement. 

“I’m just very proud of him, and very supportive of him, and when I look at him I’m like if I didn’t reach 20, at least I reached that one," Canty said.

So, for turning his own mistakes into a way that empowers younger generations to choose a life without crime, Thaddeus Canty is our New Yorker of the Week.