By Howard Koplowitz
Christavious McAllister said he looks at surviving a gunshot wound to his stomach as a second chance at life and he wants to make sure he does not mess it up.
McAllister, 18, left Far Rockaway Friday to attend Mohawk Valley Community College in upstate Utica ï»¿— becoming the first member of his family to continue their studies beyond high school.
McAllister chose the school because he thought highly of its media arts program, which he is majoring in, and Utica is not that far away from his family.
The Atlanta native, who moved to Far Rockaway in 2008 after the shooting, was also the first male in his family to graduate from high school.
“My drive was to graduate,” said McAllister, who in part credited the Far Rockaway office of the organization Safe Space with keeping him on the right path in life.
“Most of my friends, they’re pushing me [to succeed]. ï»¿Most of my friend’s mothers are pushing me,” he said. “In Far Rockaway, I think I’m the only one going to college. I feel I have to come back and share how it feels.”
McAllister said he was happy that his younger brother witnessed his graduation ceremony because he wants to become a role model for him.
McAllister said Safe Space, which helped him find a part-time job and taught him how to be responsible, “stayed me out of trouble. It kept me occupied and got me focused.”
Anthony Elison, a staff member at Safe Space, said he has seen McAllister change for the better in the one year since he first started with the program.
“He’s an individual who seems very focused on what he wants to do,” he said. “He acts as a real role model. I believe he’s really gone a long way because he’s gone through diversity.”
When he was 16 years old, McAllister went to a corner store in Georgia wearing a black T-shirt when he noticed a group of guys in black T-shirts beating up another man.
When he walked out of the store, a bullet grazed his stomach before a second one hit the organ.
“I was basically in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said.
After being wounded, McAllister said he thought about using a shortcut through a wooded area to get to his house, but instead lay in the middle of the street, hoping someone would help him.
“That’s why I feel that I have to do something good,” he said. “I got a second chance, basically. That’s something I don’t want to go through again.”
After the shooting, he moved to Far Rockaway, where his mother and brother were already living.
McAllister said his grandmother did not believe his story that he was not causing trouble the day he was shot and demanded he move to the Queens neighborhood.
Instead of attending Far Rockaway or Beach Channel high school, McAllister said he chose to go to W.H. Maxwell Career and Technical Education HS in East New York to avoid the temptation of the Far Rockaway streets.
“I felt like if I would’ve went to Far Rockaway HS, stuff from school would drag out to here,” he said, referring to his home.
McAllister said he plans to later attend either Georgia Tech or the University of Georgia after he finishes his two years at MVCC.
“I don’t want to disappoint anybody because I worked so hard,” he said. “I just know I can’t slack, for one. I have to be more focused.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.