By Kristen Johanson

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — An ex-offender spoke to some now graduating high school kids in Camden on Friday about making good choices in life.

Packed inside the The Salvation Army Kroc Center auditorium, 36 former high school dropouts graduated through a program called Camelot Excel Academy. Their keynote speaker, a former prison inmate, Keith Isam Smith.

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“This is my way of giving back,” Smith said, “and helping them get a different perspective on life.”

Smith served 38 years in prison for assisting in a homicide-robbery. He said he made a bad decision that changed his life, and he wants to impart those lessons on today’s youth.

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“When you commit a crime, or do something wrong, that just (doesn’t) affect the people that you hurt,” Smith said, “but (it hurts) your family and people in society.”

And Smith has been speaking to students for several years.

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They still come up, remembering something I said six or seven years ago,” he said. “That warms my heart, and I love people that really want to change.”