Area students had the opportunity Tuesday to listen to New York Times best-selling author Wes Moore as he spoke at the Community Arts Center about how decisions he made impacted his life.
Through a partnership between the CAC, Williamsport Area School District Foundation and First Community Foundation, more than 1,000 students from seven school districts were able to hear Moore speak on his life.
Moore told the students about events that helped shape who he is and about the process of writing his book, "The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates" - a book that chronicles the lives of Moore and another individual with the same name as their lives take different paths.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR/Sun-Gazette
Wes Moore, author of the New York Times bestseller “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates,” speaks to students from throughout Lycoming County at the Community Arts Center Tuesday morning. Inset is his book cover.
"I remember the first time I met the other Wes," Moore told the students.
Moore learned of the other Wes right after he had received the Rhodes Scholarship and the other man with the same name was accused of murder.
"The name was the first thing that caught me," Moore said.
One day in Baltimore, four men came into a jewelry store and ordered the people inside to get on the floor as they robbed the store. One of those people was an off-duty police officer who was "moonlighting" as a security guard. He was killed during the robbery.
"He had just had triplets," Moore said. "The reason he was working that day was because it was his day off and he was working a second job to make extra money for his family."
One of those accused of the crime was a man named Wes Moore - who grew up in the same neighborhood as the author, was around the same age and had a similar background.
"I started thinking, 'How does this happen?' How do you get two kids with similar backgrounds and circumstances to go two completely different directions?" Moore said.
Moore told the students about how he wasn't always on the path to college, the Rhodes Scholarship and being a best-selling author.
Moore only has a few memories of his father before he was killed.
"My father was my hero," he said. "My father was everything I wanted to be and six months later I watched him die."
One student in the audience told Moore he knows what it's like to live without a father. Moore told him the other Wes didn't know his father either.
"Regardless of the reason for that hole being there, that hole is there," Moore told the student. "It can be tough, but there were things that helped me understand the situation better."
After his father's death, his mother moved his family to the South Bronx. While here, Moore said he felt "lost."
He explained that he started learning from the wrong people and at 11 years old he felt for the first time the feeling of handcuffs around his wrists.
"It wasn't that I was a bad kid, it's that I almost found myself wearing a mask every day," Moore said.
Through a mentoring program he's involved with, Moore said he sees how children wear a mask and don't allow close relationships to grow. Moore said he also began missing school and performing badly when he did show up.
"I think I made school tougher than it had to be," Moore said.
It was at that time - he was 13 years old - that Moore's mother decided to send him to military school in Pennsylvania.
After numerous times of running away and not getting along with those at the school, Moore said he then was able to find his way.
Moore went onto graduate from Johns Hopkins University, receive the Rhodes Scholarship and become a captain in the Army while the other Wes is serving a life sentence.
"Wes has been told when to wake up. Wes has been told when to eat. Wes has been told when to go to the bathroom," Moore said.
Those around Moore are whom he credits for helping him along the way. He said they are "people who taught me that the world is bigger than what was just in front of me."
Moore said he wants to make a similar impact on students' lives, that's the reason he gave all of them his contact information and asked them to update him.
"I genuinely want to be helpful," Moore said. "I care about the consequences of our kids."
Moore said it's important for the students to see where he came from in order to show them the true path he took.
"They look at the conclusion of people's lives but they never peel back the onion," Moore said afterward.
The opportunity to speak with students is something that Moore loves, he said.
"I'm inspired by not only what (the students) do but what they're going to do," Moore said.