April 14, 2024

Lowell Sun: In the 1990s, UTEC Reentry Manager Viengsamay “Paul” Chaleunphong made some bad choices, choices that would land him in deep trouble with the law. At the time, Lowell was in the midst of a war between the Latino and Southeast Asian gangs in the city, and Chaleunphong, as young as he was, found himself deeply involved in that life.

Still, at the time Chaleunphong knew that gang life was not a viable path forward for him.

“There was a point where I was 16 years old, and I wanted to get out. It was a really weak moment. I just stayed home. I didn’t want to go out on the streets anymore. I didn’t like this life, I wanted to get out,” said Chaleunphong. “But I didn’t have a streetworker pushing me towards that.”

Without that outside support, Chaleunphong, at just 17 years old, found himself incarcerated for 21 years for murder. After returning to society after the end of his sentence, Chaleunphong has sought to be the kind of support he lacked when he found himself at his lowest, in the hopes of helping to keep young adults from making the same choices he did at their age.