The photo of Lawrence Rogers pictured here is a different man. Taken in 2009, it depicts Rogers a little younger, much more tired, with less hair (he now has dreads that reach his lower back) and less excited for life.

Meeting Rogers today is a much different story. He is a positive ray of light who, though his self-described “ups and downs,” keeps a smile on his face and his head on straight.

Rogers wants to set a good example for his two kids, ages 20 and 9. So he “remains on the yellow brick road,” his version of keeping his head down and nose clean.

“It’s not about me anymore,” Rogers said, citing his reasons to “focus” and “do the right thing.”

Family has always been integral to Rogers, who grew up with four sisters and two brothers.

“Coming up, I was a mama’s boy,” he said. “My dad tried to be there for me, but my mother didn’t let him.”

His mother did not accept financial help from his father because he was abusive, according to Rogers. Still, his mother worked very hard and tried to help him the best she could.

“My mother taught me to do the right thing, but I got around the wrong crowd to do the wrong thing,” he said.

Rogers reflected on all the amazing things his mother gave him and all the good she had done for him.

“My mother tried to make me be a positive person by allowing me to be different than others. She sent me to private schools, bought me a piano and trumpet…” he lamented that he rejected his mother’s wishes and tried to be more like his inner city school friends.

Rogers’ first arrest came while he was in the tenth grade, and it caused him to drop out of school. While incarcerated, he learned many trades and got his GED.

“Back then, you only needed a 225 to get your GED,” Rogers said, “I got a 275.”

Rogers had other brushes with the law, but says he has put the past behind him with the help of God.

“I’ve learned God is good,” he said. “When we are in tight situations, we tend to call on a higher power. That’s when you pray. But, if you do it every day, that’s when you have a better life.”

Through the years, Rogers has remained close to his mother. He still calls her every day.

He struggled with homelessness though drug use and sporadic temporary living situations with family. But Rogers is now in housing of his own.

“Right now, I have an apartment,” he said, “it feels good to be able to actually come and lay your head down, not on a park bench. It makes you feel better about yourself to be able to take a shower.”

Given the option, Rogers would go back to his childhood and do things differently. However, since there is no going back, he hopes to inspire the younger generation by mentoring youth. Rogers plans to create a mentorship program he will administer on a volunteer basis to churches and schools and other community groups.

When asked what he hopes people know about him, he says he hopes people know that deep down inside, is a good person and really hopes that comes across to people.