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'We have to make changes': Ex-prisoner creates outreach program to keep Charlotte youth of out jail

Gemini Boyd was just 22 years old when he was sentenced to 50 years in a shooting at Myers Park High. Now, he hopes his story will help kids stay out of jail.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Gemini Boyd was only 22 years old when he was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison for drug and gun charges. After serving more than two decades in jail, he left with a mission. 

"There wasn't a day that went by that I knew I wasn't going to come out here back in society," Boyd said. "I had to come out here with a plan and a tool that can help people."

Boyd's plan included Project B.O.L.T., a community-based agency he originally founded to help newly released inmates when they get out of jail. Project B.O.L.T. stands for Building Outstanding Lives Together. 

"The best word in the acronym is together, because without togetherness, nothing's going to happen," Boyd explained.

The Charlotte native, who grew up in the Would Boulevard corridor, harkens back to when he was in jail. That's when the now 47-year-old noticed the newest inmates were getting younger.

"I started getting older and started hearing the word 'unk' more, and 'O.G.,'" Boyd said. "And I started realizing that we have to make changes."

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Upon his release in 2016, Boyd returned to west Charlotte, where he grew up. He wanted to be a part of the change moving forward as that part of the city undergoes gentrification. He focused on issues he says stem from poverty and started using those issues to make a difference. He connects the hungry and homeless to food, the jobless to employment training, and connects young kids to after-school mentorship programs.

"We're trying to figure out ways we can combat or deter these youngsters from coming in behind us," Boyd said. 

One of Project B.O.L.T.'s top priorities is connecting young people with after-school activities that keep them out of trouble while developing their leadership skills. 

"We have the youth organizing program that we are doing to teach the youth how to organize," he said. "We want to follow it up with the mentee to mentor program."

Boyd recently secured what is currently a run-down storefront on West Boulevard that he hopes to eventually make a community center. He admits the spot needs some tender, loving care, but strongly believes in his vision to revive it, as well as the entire community. 

"The doors are open, the people are coming in finding jobs, the youth are being a part of something, it's not destruction in this particular community," Boyd said. "It's clean. We're just trying to make some things happen, and we need assistance."

Contact Fred Shropshire at fred@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.