The unforgettable true story of one man’s escape from the school-to-prison pipeline, how he reinvented himself as a pastor and education reform advocate, and what his journey can teach us about turning the collateral damage in the lives of our youth into hope.

“A heart-wrenching and triumphant story that will change lives.”—Bishop T. D. Jakes

Michael Phillips would never become anything. At least, that’s what he was told. It seemed like everyone was waiting for him to just fall through the cracks. After losing his father, suffering a life-altering car accident, and losing his college scholarship, Michael turned to selling drugs to make ends meet. But when his house was raided, he was arrested and thrown into a living nightmare.

When it looked like he would be sentenced to spend years behind bars, the judge gave him a choice—go to a special college program for adjudicated youth or face the possibility of a thirty-year prison sentence. It wasn’t hard to pick. From that choice, a mission was born—to help change the system that shuffles so many young Black men like Michael straight from school to prison. Today, Michael is the pastor of a thriving church, a local leader in Baltimore, and a member of the Maryland State Board of Education. He discovered that education was the path to becoming who he was created to be.

Armed with research, statistics, and his powerful story, Michael tackles the embedded privilege of the education system and introduces ideas for change that could level the playing field and reduce negative impacts on vulnerable youth. He explores ways in which the readers can help advocate and provide resources for students, and points us to the one thing anyone can start doing, no matter who we are or what our role is: speak into young kids’ lives. Tell them of their inherent worth and purpose.

In this inspiring, thought-provoking, and energizing call to action, Michael’s practical steps provide a way forward to anyone wanting to help create space for collateral hope in the lives of for young people around them.
“Michael Phillips is like a son to me. He has become a voice of hope for this generation. Having overcome profound challenges, he now speaks for the forgotten children of our society with honesty and power. His story will touch your heart, make you think, and inspire you to act until we can say together that ‘all the children are well.’”—Bishop T. D. Jakes, chairman of the board for T. D. Jakes Foundation, bestselling author and award-winning filmmaker, and senior pastor of the Potter’s House

“Do not mistake this book for just one more ‘overcoming hardship’ story. This is a book about America: our race relations, justice system, and tragically dysfunctional schools. It is a book about faith and being human. So often, taking on such vast topics risks oversimplification. By contrast, this is a highly intelligent, finely nuanced, and deeply moving book. Here is a testimony, above all, to lived intelligence—illuminating our national traumas from one man’s personal experience without sentimentality. It is a remarkable book in every sense of that word.”—Dr. David Steiner, executive director of Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy