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Kimberly Houk reporting A former gang member from the streets of Ogden is now one step away from a doctoral degree. Many thought his dramatic change of course wasn't possible.
Today, Robert Duran is a family man, and a serious student. But this wasn't always his lifestyle.
Duran moved to the poorer section of Ogden 12 years ago. As a 16 year old high school student, he was jumped into a gang.
Robert Duran: I threw up my hands and said let's go, and they all circled around me. One of them said, hey let's take it outside so we don't get blood all over."
A violent process is necessary to prove one's-self to fellow gang members. Duran says he liked the feeling of power that came with being part of a gang.
Robert Duran: "Now people looked at me differently. They treated me different. It gave you more respect."
But his fast paced, violent way of life suddenly came crashing down.
At 18, Duran became a father at the same time his brother, a fellow gang member, was sent to prison for manslaughter.
Robert Duran: "From then on out, I didn't want nothing to do with gangs. This isn't my thing. "
He enrolled in Stevens Henager business school, and soon realized he was good at school. Studying energized him. Instead of drawing power from a gang affiliation, he was now empowered with knowledge.
Robert Duran: "A lot of steps along the way it seemed like people didn't think I could do it, and you know, I always wanted to prove people wrong. "
Duran is studying for his doctorate degree in Criminology and Sociology at the University of Colorado.
This summer he's back on the streets of Ogden doing research, and trying to mend racial rifts between police and parts of the community.
Robert Duran: "A lot of this stuff, you can't learn in a textbook. Experience is real valuable knowledge to have. "
And he hopes his past holds the key to helping police unlock some of the secrets of gangs.
Duran is involved in a community project called Ogden CopWatch. Members of the community use video cameras to monitor police activity. The intent is to ensure that officers handle all cases in a professional manner.
Similar groups patrol the streets in some major U-S cities.