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Philadelphia teen says Salvation Army changed his life. Now, his mission is to give back

Joy of Sharing: Philadelphia teen says the Salvation Army changed his life
Joy of Sharing: Philadelphia teen says the Salvation Army changed his life 02:57

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- At least three to four days a week, you can find 15-year-old Tyonn Leonard at his favorite place: the Salvation Army West Philadelphia Community Center.

Tyonn is no stranger to the community center. He's been coming here since he was just 8 years old.

"The Salvation Army, it means a lot because when I first started coming here, they opened their arms to me," Tyonn said. "They fed me, they clothed me. They helped me out tremendously."

Tyonn now extends that same welcoming spirit to everyone he encounters, earnestly giving back to an organization that changed his life. It all started when he used to sit in the back of the community center's church services.

"I just came to play church," Tyonn said. "Come, sit in the back of the church. Do nothing. Get on my phone."

Tyonn added that his sitting in the back of the church led to him progressively moving to the front of the church.

The church messages began to resonate and his involvement increased. He came out of the shadows and now, he's front and center serving as a Salvation Army Junior Soldier -- and a proud member of the youth band.

"It helped me to play an instrument," Tyonn said. "[Playing an] instrument is a lifelong career, so I think it's leading me to the right path."

Tyonn's path is much brighter thanks to his involvement with the Salvation Army.

But he's reminded every day in his own neighborhood of the daily violence he's surrounded by.

"On my block, I've witnessed somebody get shot before," he said.

The Salvation Army has become a safe haven for Tyonn, a glimpse into a world he wants to become more involved in.

"After high school, I think I'm going to go to college," Tyonn said, "but also train to become a Salvation Army officer. I love it. I just love everything that the Salvation Army do for people and I love what the Salvation Army did for me. I want to be the impacting person for somebody's else's life."

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