Savage. His name was on my mind when I woke up this morning. Savage was the nick name of a young Puerto Rican man on Wallace Cottage. He was a born leader. He had poise and an air of authority that the other young men respected and looked to for direction. It eked out of him.

A few months after Savage was paroled, he called me. Excitement replaced his usually ‘cool’ manner as he told me about an Outward Bound experience that changed his life.

Savage was one of a number of young people from all over the US chosen by Outward Bound to participate in a National Geographic documentary. Participants were chosen from a range of diverse backgrounds; an African American man from Harlem, a white Jewish girl from a wealthy family, Savage, a Puerto Rican man from Chicago and others. All were thrown together to be challenged and grow.

He gushed about how it changed his life and how he was inspired to change the lives and circumstances of ‘his people’ in his neighborhood.

When the documentary came out on TV, Savage’s strong personality was evident; he was self-reliant and determined. What he lacked was trust and an ability to work with others to achieve goals. I watched him struggle to go it alone then finally learn to trust and reap the rewards of success with his teammates.

Throughout the program, Savage wore a hat displaying the flag of Puerto Rico. It was part of who he was; his identity. In one scene, his hat falls into a raging river. He risks drowning to save it.

The show climaxes with Savage being one of the few to reach their goal – the top of Santa Rosa, the highest peak in Chile.

Savage was the first Puerto Rican to climb the peak. He ceremoniously plants a stake, places his flag/cap on top and claims it for the people of Puerto Rico. Although 35 years ago, I still remember being moved by his success and the pride and achievement radiating from Savage at that moment. Everyone I knew that watched the show, was warmed and inspired by him. They recognised a talented man; a leader with a bright future.

And so we expect that defining moment to have changed Savage’s life and that he leads his people and his neighborhood to a place of peace and success. That’s not what happened. A few months later, I heard he was arrested for armed robbery. Like so many, the pull of poverty and environment was too great. Savage had a glimmer of what could be. I don’t know where he is today or if he survived his debilitating environment. I pray he was able to again find hope to lead him out of the cycle of prison and despair.