LEADERSHIP: Man who spent 27 years in prison mentors kids to avoid crime & gangs

Aaron Hye started the Carpe Diem Outreach program while still behind bars.
Aaron Hye Carpe Diem Outreach
Posted at 1:27 PM, Dec 15, 2023

SAN MARCOS, Calif. (KGTV) — A man who was behind bars for more than two decades has made it his mission to mentor kids about the consequences of embracing gang culture and crime.

Aaron Hye started the Carpe Diem Outreach program from his cell in Salinas Valley State Prison two years ago.

"My brother told me to write a letter to my 16-year-old self. I wrote it, he read it on Facebook, and we got a lot of good reviews," said Hye. "Any time I did self reflections, I sent them to my brother... He got on Facebook and read them. That was the birth of Carpe Diem."

Hye was 16 years old when a judge gave him two concurrent life sentences.

"Nov. 30, 1995, police came to my house and arrested me. That was 8 o'clock in the evening. I watched my mom cry," said Hye. "And I sat in there for 27 and a half years. Now I'm out... Out May 25, 2023. I've been out five and a half months."

Hye's outreach program teaches middle schoolers everything he wished he knew as a teen.

"Consequences... You join a gang, this is what's going to happen. You'll hurt your mom, you'll hurt yourself. You'll end up in prison or dead. I don't know no successful gang member," said Hye. "We gotta get them right now when they're in middle school. We gotta get them before they're at that age when they decide they're going that way."

Hye took everything he's learned and built a 10-week mentorship guide, designed to keep kids on the right path. While Hye is learning on the fly, he has no plans of slowing down.

"We're trying to leave something behind," said Hye. "So 100 years later, they can say Carpe Diem made this type of impact, and they're still making this type of impact."

If you want to learn more about Carpe Diem Outreach, you can email them at

Because of his work serving children in San Diego County, ABC 10News and Lead San Diego chose Aaron Hye as our 10News Leadership Award winner for the month of December. To nominate someone for our 10News Leadership Award, follow this link.