The videos that are part of the Daytona Beach nonprofit One Bad Decision are gut wrenching, but the message from the empowered yet still grieving mother who founded it is clear.
“My son (Rodney Baker) is not here today because my son made one bad decision,” Founder Terica Charles said. “I have to live in my truth. And the truth is the domino effect started from the moment he made the decision to steal that motorcycle. That final decision he made ended up costing him his life.”
Sometimes she shows participants of her group the video of her son’s body as well as his ashes to bring the reality to them that, unlike a high-speed chase in a video game, you don’t get to hit restart or get another life after you lose this one.
“I don’t want this bag of ashes to be all your parents have to remember you by,” she tells them.
Ms. Charles formed One Bad Decision as a way to give back to the community and everyone who played a part helping her family through such a tragic loss.
“What better way to do it than to teach other kids to not make the same types of decisions that my son made,” she said. “If I save one of these kids, then I feel like my son’s death was not in vain. I feel like I found my purpose. Ultimately I feel that is what is going to change our community. A reset of the mindset.”
One Bad Decision is open to school age children up to age 26. Classes and outings are on Saturdays, with a recent entrepreneurship seminar, and a four-day trip to Atlanta planned for July. All classes and events include education about how to make good and bad decisions. One game is trigger chairs, where participants identify what triggers them and how to respond in positive ways. Each gathering includes something for participants to work on and something to celebrate.
The program is geared for at-risk children or those that have already had some negative interaction with law enforcement or the courts. The program is year-round and free.
Although she is unhappy with the rash of nationwide shootings of unarmed black youth by police, she did not blame the police for her son’s death. (He died March 26, 2018, while driving away from police on a stolen motorcycle). She said she knew their job was to locate stolen property and that was what they were trying to do.
In a seemingly miraculous twist of fate, when she went to visit the bridge where her son crashed, she ran into the owner of the motorcycle. She told him she was sorry about his motorcycle.
He told her, “My motorcycle was material. My heart goes out to you because you lost your child and I can’t give that back to you.”
She said, “I don’t know what it was that even brought him to that spot. I have to say that it was destiny. He had such a forgiving heart under the circumstances. He just hugged me and my kids, and just told us he was sorry. He stood there and literally cried with us.”
It comes down to decisions.
“We have to accept that our children no matter how well we raised them, no matter what we do for them, no matter what we say to them, as adults are still going to make their own decisions,” Ms. Charles said. “I’ve done everything I could for my son. I told my son the way he was going wasn’t going to get him anywhere but jail or hell. I have begged him to get himself together because I didn’t want to see this day come. We have to let our children be responsible for their actions.
“I love my son. But I have to be real with me. We as parents have got to stop supporting our kids when we know our children are doing wrong,” she said. “Find something constructive to do with your time that does not result with you being in jail or on your way to somebody’s grave or sitting in a box in ashes on somebody’s dresser.”
Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri praised Ms. Charles and her nonprofit.
“You don’t see a lot of parents pick this up and run with something like this when a tragedy like this happens,” the chief said. “She is doing above and beyond what most parents would do. She’s a very special person. Very sharp and very passionate. She is changing lives and there are going to be a lot of people thanking her for what she’s done.
He supports her in any way he can financially or professionally, he said.
“I believe in what she is doing. She’s the real deal,” Chief Capri said. “She’s been through a horrific tragedy, picked the pieces up and is running with it so other families don’t have to go through the pain she went through and in the process is changing lives and making the world a better place. Whatever I can do to help her out, she is going to get from me.”
She shows young people they have value and they are important while trying to keep them out of trouble and keep them busy, he said. That there are other ways to be successful like going to college, getting a degree, getting a job, raising a family.
Besides operating One Bad Decision, Ms. Charles does business consulting and manages artists and entertainers. She sits on the midtown redevelopment board in Daytona Beach and has several degrees and certifications from Daytona State College. She will be attending the University of Central Florida in the fall to begin a dual master’s program in nonprofit management and public administration. She has two daughters, Kaya Flynt and Breyonni Black.
For more information or to donate, call (386) 265-9328 or visit onebaddecision.org.