Former drug dealer joins the Ivy League after graduating from Columbia University at age 67

David Norman, pictured, from Harlem, New York was a former heroin addict and drug dealer who just graduated from Columbia University aged 67A former heroin addict and drug dealer from Harlem who has been in and out of jail since 1968 has just graduated from Columbia University aged 67.

David Norman, from Harlem, was the oldest person to graduate from the Columbia University School of General Studies with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.

According to Norman, he turned to drugs as a teenager to make up for a lack of self confidence.

Speaking after graduating from the Ivy League college, Norman said: ‘I was a very shy kid, and I was also selling narcotics, and in that capacity you were taught not to show feelings. One of the things I realized early was that when I got high, I was able to function socially, which was one of my biggest problem.’

While in prison during 1968, he would spend the long nights talking to people in neighboring cells. He said he always enjoyed reading, but had a very limited formal education.

He said: ‘They went to school and I didn’t, and we’d have these long discussions. The guy on my right liked Shakespeare, and I didn’t know anything about him, and in turn I would talk to him about everything I had read, which included philosophy.’

He was last imprisoned in 1995 and spent six years volunteering as a counselor for the transitional services program. This provides help to inmates during their first 90 days of freedom when the risk of reoffending is often at its highest.

He said: ‘That job changed my perspective. It let me know that I have something to offer. I decided I would devote my time to working toward something bigger than myself.’

When he was released from prison, he went to work at Mount Vernon Hospital as an educator and outreach worker.

He is now a research assistant at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and volunteers with a local church.

He has been free of drugs for the past 20 years and now wants to write a book as well as work with those who are in a similar situation to his younger self.

Norman said he started taking drugs as a teenager because he was shy but has now been clean for 20 years

He added: ‘I remember a time when people would avoid me on the street, because of my attitude. Now I smile and say hello to people and ask them how they’re doing. When my perspective changed, my life changed. Whatever happens outside has to begin inside.’

According to Columbia University, graduates of the School of General Studies receive the same degrees as all of the other Ivy League students at the institution.

It offers the chance for ‘non traditional students’ to pursue an Ivy League education.

A spokeswoman said: ‘David is but one example of the kind of exceptional students we serve.’

Source: The DailyMail

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