In the 1990s, Johnny Holmes was head of security at a high school in Blue Island, Illinois, located just outside of Chicago, where he met Christian Picciolini, a teenage student who was the leader of a local neo-Nazi group.

Christian was involved for eight years before he renounced the movement’s racist principles. Today, he devotes himself to helping others leave hate groups.

He credits Johnny with being the person who helped turn him around; they came to StoryCorps to remember how it happened.

Christian founded EXIT Solutions, a global organization of former extremists with a mission to help people to leave hateful and violent ideologies.

Johnny now serves on his local school board.

Editor’s note: This story contains a quote where a racial slur is used.

 

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Originally aired October 6, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Bottom photo: Johnny Holmes from the 1987 issue of the Eisenhower High School yearbook, Crest. Photo courtesy Johnny Holmes.