Piedmont woman uses past to inspire youth

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- When Mary Stevens was in the music industry, she rubbed shoulders with some big names.

As she flipped through a photo book, there were pictures of her with celebrities and autographs she saved over the years.

Stevens was a singer and even had her own music company.

“I had a good time, I met a lot of people, I traveled,” she said.

But in the world of trying to "make it big," she faced choosing a lifestyle that included money, sex and drugs.

“When you want to make it, when you want to be known, you fall prey to these things,” Stevens said.

Stevens is transparent when it comes to her past, including her struggles with drug use.

However, the mother of eight says it was her children who sparked her road toward recovery.

Stevens would go on to use her past for positivity.

She worked with New York police officers to fight violence and gang activity.

She founded The Heavenly Voices Performing Arts, Inc. – a Christian based nonprofit organization helping to develop inner city youth.

“So I would go into the school system and work with the children signing and doing plays in the after school programs,” she said.

Although the group was founded in New York, when Stevens moved to Greensboro, she continued the group with youth in the Piedmont.

Members perform at community events and have even recorded music addressing social issues such as bringing maintenance jobs back.

The group collaborated with Joel Leonard, author of “The Maintenance Crisis Song,” to record a gospel and a hip hop version of the song.

“They’ve been played all over the world and mother Mary’s kids are one of the most special and the ones a lot of people like the most,” Leonard said.

Stevens wants youth to know that the past doesn’t have to stop a bright future.

“All it takes is just a little bit of love, that’s all. Once you’ve got that love, you’ve conquered everything,” she said.