A Conversation with Bobby Smith, participant in Legacy’s LivingSidebySide® training and Marlene Ginsberg, Legacy International

Having observed Bobby’s in two trainings, I asked him:  How does 22 years in prison affect your personality, your decisions, your values?  “I made mistakes and life moved forward (while I stayed still), and I want to help young men and women not to make those same mistakes. If one kid, a case manager, a parent with a son, if one person can learn from my mistake, I want to make a difference wherever it can be useful”.   Bobby works as a Mentor for Total Action for Progress (TAP) in Roanoke Virginia.

“I was raised in a home with a mom who taught and preached having the right values. Certainly (the experience of jail time) put values back into perspective for me.  In the course of selling drugs, I had to get to a place to recognize the mistakes, this is not the person I was taught to be, it gave me a real perspective to get back to who I was with honesty, values, and principles.

For me, spending 22 years and being a military veteran, my experiences were in environments where if a supervisor tells you to do something, it is an order, you had to do it, and strong people rule, (after my release, I had) to understand that the world is not really like that

When I took the training “Relationship Building Blocks”, it opened up a new way of doing things and I understood that there are ways to get young leaders to open up, to communicate, have a safe space, and to trust people who are different than you.  It’s like a time capsule, –(it showed me)  how to communicate effectively with your peers and with the young adults, how to build healthy relationships, and not wear a mask because you are afraid of what someone may do to you or think about you.

During one of the exercises, my small group discussion was on the topic of immigration and we had to discuss both sides of the issue.  My experience in jail was with Central American drug lords and our society needs to be protected from people like them. Unlike the participants in my small group discussion who had only the news to inform them, I had it first-hand.  I understand what men, women, and children in Central America are running from because I experienced it.  They are running from the gang mentality that wants to control them, wants to make the rules.  (Regarding refugees coming to the US) I believe that everyone should be able to seek a better life.

When I was in prison, It took 4-5 years to learn the lesson of what I had done wrong; after that I had to pay for it and then figure out how I was going to come out and not be angry; how to maintain sanity, and continue to grow.   It takes work to make the transition. Now all I want to do is to help others stay straight and not make the same mistakes”.


LivingSidebySide® (LSBS) transforms attitudes and behavior in the classroom, school, and community laying a foundation for success. The program utilizes a strategic combination of professional development for teachers and youth workers, interactive modules for youths, and a values-based approach through which small changes can create a “safe space” and yield significant results.

Legacy’s methodology supports a wide range of social/emotional learning competencies in a unified fashion to build character, provide tools for preventing and resolving conflict, diffuse difficult behaviors, promote inclusivity, and promote civic engagement. These complimentary elements target a single aim – turning classrooms and communities into safer places for academic performance, social/emotional learning, and productive interaction.

To bring LivingSidebySide® to your city, school district, or country, please contact Marlene Ginsberg marlene@legacyintl.org for more information.