Former Portland gang member's fall, rise featured in 'Perception to Purpose' documentary

Former Portland gang member Noah Schultz's struggle is documented in a new film. (Perception Facebook page)

A 25-year-old Portland man's struggle from a 17-year-old gang member to high school and then college graduate while serving seven and half years in prison, is the subject of a new documentary film called "Perception: From Prison to Purpose."

Noah Schultz of Portland fell into gangs and drugs at the age of 12.

Just after turning 17, Schultz -- who felt alienated at school and whose family life was collapsing -- was robbed of $3,000.

“I fell into the cycle that snowballed and got progressively worse and worse,” Schultz said in an interview with KATU.

To get his money back he pistol-whipped the guy who ripped him off. He was caught, convicted and sentenced to a mandatory, seven and half years at the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn, where his life turned around.

“I met an older group of guys and I just began mirroring the behavior of the guys who I saw were a little bit successful,” he said. “And people who were doing things differently. People who had come from the same situations but were doing things differently.”

While he said he still felt wounded by his school studies, with the help of fellow inmates, online classes and, most importantly, community teachers, he earned his high school diploma and two degrees from Oregon State University. No one gave up on him.

“How are they going to stay connected and get better and want to come back to the community and be a thriving member if the community completely gives up on them?” he said.

The answer came from those outside instructors and mentors.

“They're bringing that connection back and making people, in my case, just really start to care and see that love and feel that love,” he said.

During the last six months of his sentence, while living in transitional housing, Schultz met life coach Joey Jenkins. They taught a class together and were going to make a short video about the class. Jenkins had family in the film business.

“They were like, ’Hey, I think we have something bigger than just a small video; here, let's see where we can take this thing,’” Schultz said.

Ten months after he was released from prison, the film detailing Schultz’s fall and rise has been making the rounds of film festivals and has won at least one award.

For now, Schultz is getting ready for a nationwide speaking tour and working on his and Guy Mattalianos clothing line.

There are more details about the film and screenings on the film's Facebook page.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off