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Found a nice story about Erik Coleman and his mom


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After a Long Journey, a Jets Safety and His Mother Are in a Better Place

On the second day of the N.F.L. draft last week, Erik Coleman and his mother, Cynthia Bracey-Coleman, sat side by side on the sofa in his apartment in Westbury, N.Y., counting their blessings as they did on the same Sunday three years earlier after Coleman was drafted in the fifth round by the Jets.

This time, they were marveling at how far they had each come: Coleman, from a chaotic adolescent to a starting safety with the Jets and his mother from a drug-using felon to a model student.

Next month, Cynthia will receive an associate s applied science degree in business, marketing and management from Spokane Community College in Washington. She s been on the honor roll every quarter, Coleman said.

After bearing witness to his mother s journey, the 24-year-old Coleman may have more of a perspective on players with police records than others in a league in which missteps with the law became, over the weekend, significant stumbling blocks to employment for some prospects.

If someone truly does change, Coleman said, casting a sidelong glance at his mother, and lives a different life, they deserve a second chance.

Cynthia, 50, spent six months at the Geiger Corrections Facility outside Spokane in 2000 after pleading guilty to theft of government property, according to court records. Over a five-year period, she embezzled about $97,000 from the Social Security Administration, where she was employed as a service representative.

Asked if the seed to pursue higher education was planted in prison, Cynthia shifted uncomfortably on the couch and said: I wouldn t say it was a prison. It was minimum security.

Coleman shot his mother a look and, maintaining eye contact, said, It was prison.

At age 11, Coleman, who has an older sister and a younger brother, assumed the mantle of man of the house after his parents divorced. Cynthia struggled to provide for her children.

They were evicted after falling behind on the rent, and their only car was repossessed. It was a rough time, Coleman said. A lot of the innocence of my childhood was taken away.

The family s financial problems were exacerbated by a crack-cocaine habit that Cynthia, a self-described goody-two-shoes through her high school years, developed.

I don t know how, I just drifted away, she said. I was making bad choices.

Coleman interjected, It s like the person is good but what s going on in their life isn t, and they don t realize it.

Looking at her hands, Cynthia added soberly, Sometimes people don t know how to get out of it and change.

Because she said her drug use never caused her to miss work, her sons games or church on Sundays, Cynthia managed to convince herself that she did not have a problem.

I thought I wasn t hurting anybody else, she said. And then more softly, Obviously, I was wrong.

In 1999, she was indicted in the embezzling case. She pleaded guilty the next year and was incarcerated. Coleman, then a senior at Lewis and Clark High in Spokane, and his brother went to live with different families they knew from school.

It was definitely a low point, Coleman said. It was hard seeing the family dispersed like that. And I was dealing with SATs, college. It was very emotional for me.

Cynthia described her sentence as a blessing in disguise. The time I had to do cleared my body and my mind, she said. If not for that, she added, I might have kept going the way I was.

She received drug counseling in prison and said she had been clean since 2000. Coleman, who turns 25 today, said he learned from watching what his mother went through. You can take a bad experience and use it as an excuse to be bad, or you can learn and grow from it, he said.

His mother s evolution was on display at a Delta Epsilon Chi fund-raiser that Coleman attended earlier in the year in Spokane. The group, to which his mother belongs, stresses leadership, management and marketing, and was raising money to send students to an international career-development conference last month in Orlando, Fla.

Coleman said people kept stopping him to ask, Are you Cynthia s son? He smiled. She used to be Erik s mom. Now I m Cynthia s son. That s how it s supposed to be.

He added: Everyone was raving about my mom. One of her professors told me: Erik, your mom is an amazing person. She works so hard, and everyone in class feeds off her. It made me feel proud.

In a telephone interview, Ginny Powers, the Delta Epsilon Chi adviser who has taught Cynthia, described her as a bright, energetic, up-front woman, and said, She s done a great job of turning her life around.

Powers has encouraged Cynthia, who is financing her education through a work-study program and by working for a friend s catering company, to apply for a coveted position in a postgraduate entrepreneurial program. Cynthia said she probably would. I like being a student, she said.

At Powers s suggestion, Cynthia entered a statewide business ethics competition sponsored by Delta Epsilon Chi. Which is how the woman whose life was once a business ethics case study found herself dissecting business ethics-case studies in front of a panel of judges.

She and her partner took first place, which earned them a trip to Orlando for the international competition. They did not win a prize, but Cynthia made some contacts at the event s job fair. On her way home, she made a stopover in New York to spend a few days with Erik.

As they sat together on the couch, Coleman rotated his left arm as if he was going to do a biceps curl. A tattoo on the inside of his arm became clearly visible. His mother s name, Cynthia Lynn, is written in script. It was his way of keeping her close, he said, when they had to be apart.

He said, I think my mom and I have grown up a lot together from our experiences.

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