A favorite fishing hole is a great way to escape reality, but for Jaylen Puckett, it was a chance to survive.
We have all heard the fishing story of how big or how long the catch was. For Puckett it’s less about the catch and more about fishing as a way to be at peace.
"I’ve seen a lot of gun violence, a lot of drug deals, stuff like that growing up, I was like ‘this is not for me I don't want to do it,’” Puckett said. “So, I was trying to find a way out."
Puckett is from Vallejo, California, a city less than 50 minutes from bay-area cites Oakland and San Francisco.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports this year alone, killings are up 14%. Puckett’s hometown is on track to have its worst murder year in the city's history, a sobering fact that hits home to Puckett who said he's lost at least eight friends to violence.
"Once you are in Vallejo, you are stuck pretty much you know, you’re stuck in the gang violence, you are stuck in the stuff that you don't want to do," Puckett said.
Getting out of California to avoid gangs is only half of Puckett’s story.
His 11th grade teacher, Freddie Veres, gave him a little help to start his career path as an airplane mechanic.
"He just needed a little money and I was happy to make it available to him,” Veres said. “Look what he has done with it, best money I have ever invested in my life."
With Veres’ help, Puckett graduated from Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology in Tulsa and he also immersed himself in Green Country fishing hot spots, that even include drain ditches and canals - you can catch a fish anywhere.
"The fishing out here is so much different, I love it,” Puckett said. “We all know there is fish in there, you just have to be able to catch them and stay focused."
Fishing, surviving and achieving dreams, Puckett’s journey is not only paying dividends on his own life but also on others.
"Jaylen’s my hero what he has done is heroic there’s no other way to put it,” Veres said. “Going from where his family situation, losing family members who were the only people that were really believing in him and not giving into the pressure and still finding a way out - that’s heroic."
"I got a lot of supporters that support me out here in Tulsa, Oklahoma,” Puckett said.