Former drug dealer and gang member Christian Claudio hopes to convince the youth of Throggs Neck to not make the same mistakes that he made.
On Friday, February 4, Claudio visited I.S. 192 to tell students of his criminal past and to deliver the important message that crime is not the answer.
Claudio was once one of the biggest cocaine dealers in New York City and was arrested in 1989 for selling cocaine to an undercover police officer.
While an inmate in Rikers Island, Claudio was influenced by the founder of the Latin Kings gang and he helped establish the gang’s presence in the prison, becoming a leader himself.
After nearly killing another inmate in 1991, Claudio was charged with attempted murder in the second degree and was given an additional 37 year sentence in which he served in a series of upstate correctional facilities.
It was at this point that Claudio realized his life needed to change. In September 2005, Claudio was released from prison on parole after only serving 15 years. Upon his release, he was determined to reach out and educate the youth of the Bronx by sharing his life experiences and convince them to stay away from drugs and gangs.
“Unfortunately, I had to pay a long time for all the crime I committed,” Claudio said. “I was very happy to be released early and I vowed from that point on that, as a changed man, I would tell kids everything that I went through and hope that they will avoid those ways and stay on the right path in life.”
The students were brought into the auditorium to listen to Claudio. For the time that he spoke, students were gripped by his tale.
For Claudio, drug dealing and street life was the cool thing to do for him. You always want to do what the cool kids are doing, Claudio told the students.
His message for them was simple: be leaders and not followers of others. Stay away from drugs and crime.
Although raised in Spanish Harlem, Claudio moved to Throggs Neck to continue his drug dealing and remained a resident until he was arrested.
Now that he has left his criminal life in his past, Claudio has made Throggs Neck home once again and he is currently beginning a non-profit organization called Throggs Neck-La Famiglia that will dedicate their services to reaching out to the children of Throggs Neck.
He believes his past experiences are now being used for a greater purpose as a teaching tool to help keep kids away from crime.
I.S. 192 principal Jennifer Joint was very happy that Claudio was able to come and speak to the students and she believes the best way to keep the students off the streets and away from crime is to hear the negative experiences of someone who had to pay for his wrong doing.
“The kids need to hear stories like this from somebody who has been through a lot,” Joint said. “We really hope that after they listen to Christian that they will be aware of all the bad that comes from gang life.”