Shadeed “Sha” Wallace-Stepter and Andrew Medal were two of the most inspiring speakers at the Summit Powder Mountain neighborhood gathering in January. By sharing their remarkable personal stories, they persuaded members of the Summit Powder Mountain community to expand the thinking of inclusion. Both Sha and Andrew are former felons. Today, they are successful entrepreneurs helping create opportunities for the incarcerated, and formerly incarcerated, like them.
Sha and Andrew opened a lot of eyes during their panel discussion about opportunities for the incarcerated
Sha told the Sky Lodge crowd how he turned his life around while serving 18 years of a 27-year sentence for armed robbery. His transformation began at San Quinten, the gold standard of prisons for self-help and education programs. In time, he got his hands on a tablet, learned Python via online tutorials, and found a friendly open-source community. “Open source is about fellowship and collaboration,” Sha explains. “It works because no one is excluded.” For Sha, it was also a source of love. Since his early release in 2018, he’s launched a popular podcast, is producing a documentary film, Growing Up Behind Bars, and a recurring guest lecturer at Stanford, UC Berkely, and the University of San Francisco.
Medal had become a successful web entrepreneur at age 24, despite having spent his 21st birthday locked up. But his past caught up with him again at 28, and he lost everything due to a fight he got into at 22. Undeterred, when he was incarcerated again “I used the cell block as a stage for my comeback,” he says. Today he’s rebuilt his empire again, owns several businesses and runs a social initiative called Street Smarter, which teaches inmates how to do front-end web development, build their own startups, and has created the first-ever venture fund focused on early-stage ex-felon founders. Expanding your thinking about inclusion.
“Their stories are incredible,” says Ryan Byrne, one of the newer members of the community. “What they’ve done and are doing is really inspiring. And to see everyone embrace their cause was really encouraging. That’s what this place is all about.”
Shadeed “Sha” Wallace-Stepter