Fifteen years ago, Ed Martell stood in front of Judge Bruce Morrow with a rap sheet a mile long, but what happened next is stranger than fiction.

Morrow saw something in Martell that no one else did, so instead of tossing him into jail for dealing drugs, Morrow challenged Martell to improve himself.

He offered Martell three years of probation with this caveat; improve yourself. Put all that energy into something positive instead of something negative.

“It was kind of in jest, but he understood I believed he could be anything he wanted to be,” Morrow told the Washington Post.

Martell, it turns out, loves a good challenge. He stayed in touch with the judge, and worked to improve himself, slowly but surely.

And in May, Martell once again stood before Morrow, only this time, it was to take the oath to be admitted to the State Bar of Michigan. Yes, Ed Martell had become a lawyer.

Martell told Deadline Detroit that his mom raised him with ethics and morals, but the temptations of the street were too hard to resist. He dropped out of school at 17, left home and “became intertwined with the drug culture.”

But Morrow's challenge inspired him. Despite violating Morrow's three year probation, he got back on track to first earn his GED, and then put himself through Wayne Community College, where his good grades led to a scholarship to the University of Detroit Mercy. After earning a Bachelor's degree, he applied and got into law school, also at Detroit Mercy. Where he had to explain his criminal past to qualify.

“I was chasing a dream with no guarantees,” Martell confessed to Deadline Detroit. “My application (explaining his past life of crime) was 1,200-plus pages.”

For Morrow, seeing Martell become a lawyer was life changing as well.

“If you believe like I believe, that there but for the grace of God go you and me... I told him, ‘You could be my son. Let’s see how far you can go.’ And man, he hasn’t finished yet.”

The common ground between Martell and Morrow was their deep faith in God, and the fact that people need a helping hand.

Morrow  believes that everyone, including him, needs help to advance, and while he had plenty, Martell needed some, and he provided it. “There’s no such thing in my mind as a self-made person.”

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