May 21, 2015
Khalil Barker -- developing character, onstage and off
Khalil Barker shakes hands with Intervention Specialist Tim Cureton at Lancaster Fatherhood Project.
About three years ago, Khalil Barker hit a low point. He was involved with a gang. Then he got arrested and faced criminal charges.
He found himself on probation, with the requirement that he participate in Lancaster Fatherhood Project's program. He started to do so, but then went off course, heading to Florida in the mistaken belief that once there he could have his record expunged and make a fresh start.
Realizing he'd made a mistake, he came home. He turned himself in and explained what had happened, why he had gone to Florida.
"Thank God they reinstated my probation," he said. It was "a chance to redeem myself, an act of mercy and sympathy."
With reinstatement, he was also required to continue with the Fatherhood program. He had wanted to do that anyway, and had told folks at the fatherhood program so even before turning himself in. "I'm blessed that it turned out that way," he said.
Eighteen months later, he's obtained his GED, and gotten his license back.
He has a better relationship with his 5-year-old daughter -- and her mother as well. "We're able to communicate" now, he says, and work out their own visitation. He sees his daughter "about every other weekend."
He has a job working in construction. He started as a laborer, then advanced to quality control technician trainee. Now he is certified in quality control as well as in hazardous materials and in two other areas. He has received an increase in pay and drives a company vehicle. He has also been able to save enough money to rent his own living space.
He is an enthusiastic advocate for the fatherhood program, based on what it has done for him. "I've learned people skills. I've learned about myself, how to better myself as a man... and be a positive piece in the community." He visits the program on a weekly basis to talk to other clients about determination, perseverance and overcoming barriers in life.
And he has a new outside interest -- community theater. He mostly works backstage, but has done some acting as well. He received an award for his performance as Tom Robinson in "To Kill A Mockingbird."
This has inspired him to further his education. He'd like to get a master's degree in fine arts.
"What's most exciting for me is the effect it has on the crowd, the audience," he says. "Being able to tap into the character, being able to do that. I'm in the character, and you're right there with me."
Just as he develops a character on the stage, he's demonstrated how to do the same in real life.