By Mike Bush
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - At the Al Chapelle Community Center in St. Louis, kids get to escape both the heat and reality for a while.
"I'm actually the only kid in my family that's never been to the penitentiary, " says one of the kids.
30 year old Jevon Hansman runs the art program here. It's a small class but to these kids
he's a big deal.
"They really think Im somebody, "he laughs. "I never felt like that before."
Jevon actually grew up in this neighborhood. And when you're from here you grow up fast.
The Clinton-Peabody housing project was synonymous with inner city blight and crime.
"Gangs and Drugs, "says Hansman. "This was kind of the home base for it."
Jevon describes his childhood as living in a virtual war zone.
"Fourth of July every night, "he recalls. "Always shooting."
But when Jevon was 13 he was able to run away without ever leaving home.
"It's funny. I've always had a real interest in kind of using education to open people's minds, "explains the only other adult in the room.
Bob Hansman teaches drawing and design in the architecture school at Washington University.
About 20 years ago, he volunteered to start a summer art class for kids in the projects. Though some his students, including Jevon were more interested in punching than painting.
"I felt like I was a referee half the time, " he chuckles, "but then they started bringing their friends and family."
Some of the kids ended up learning, Jevon ended up moving in with Bob.
With no father and an absent mother, it was a way to get away from the violence.
"I used to just sit behind the door of my room, " says Jevon, "and just pray he wouldn't throw me out.
When kids grow up in the projects, some learn to express themselves with a gun. Thanks to Bob, Jevon started expressing himself with a brush.
Jevon now sells his art and does commissions. And he took over the community center program
because it's always nice when a son follows in his father's footsteps.
Recalling a conversation 13 years ago, Bob remembers " He just said, have you ever thought about adopting me? Just like that. I sometimes wonder what my life would be like without him. I really can't picture it anymore. He's so much a part of what I feel, what my life has been about and what it's been for."
Bob Hansman not only took Jevon's hand, he had his back. And now on Bob's back, a tee shirt that says number one dad.
Bob Hansman didn't give Jevon life but he gave him a chance.
"I couldn't be prouder, " says Bob. "I couldn't be prouder."