To meet Ralph Sanders today, you would know him as a gentle giant. As in his youth, he stands tall at 6’6” with an athletic build, but these days he has traded partying for faith and bad behavior for mentoring California’s youth.
While Ralph himself has undergone a dramatic transformation, Sanders’ mission in life is to provide inspiration and assurance to those most in need as they face life’s difficult struggles. Now, he personally works with at-risk teens to prevent others from going down the same path that he did.
At JAR (Juveniles At Risk), Sanders’ youth program in Sacramento, many of the troubled youth are shocked to hear that Sanders wasn’t always the upstanding citizen that he is now.
“They always laugh at me when I talk to them about testimonies,” Sanders says. “They say, ‘Mr. Sanders, you’ve never been to prison. You don’t look like it. You look like a square.’ You look at me, you can never tell I’ve been to prison for 15 years. This is why they gave me such a hard time.”
But rather than focus on his troubled past, Sanders chooses to focus on his present and his future. While incarcerated, Sanders embraced God as the answer to a better life. While he wasn’t exactly sure what he was looking for, he knew that faith would be the answer.
“I found myself grabbing a Bible and going to church and seeking God in all different religions. I didn’t even know what God to seek,” he recalls.
Ralph Sanders used his newfound faith to propel him into a new life. He has become a talented public speaker, frequently speaking at high schools in California about his experiences and how to avoid the mistakes he made. He has written three books detailing specific struggles he faced: “Halftime Hustler” about his criminal activity; “Held Hostage” about abusive relationships; and “Break Loose” about being targeted for cyberbullying and slander.
Married with a young daughter, Sanders is passionate about mentoring California’s troubled youth.
“It’s very rewarding to know that I had the experience to really deal with these kids. I see myself as these kids. I want them to have the best of life,” he says.
Through JAR, Sanders helps kids earn their high school diplomas or GEDs, address the issues that are holding them back, and receive job training and opportunities.
While it may not have always been the case, Ralph Sanders is now known for his warm, charming demeanor, bright smile, and sincerity. Sanders is proud of his personal transformation and the way he’s been able to help other kids headed down the same path.
“My faith has really brought me a long way. I see myself today as a role model to help others get out of trouble from falling in the cracks of life.”