In 1996, Reginald Dwayne Betts was a 16-year-old honor student when he participated in a carjacking.

In 1996, Reginald Dwayne Betts was a 16-year-old honor student when he participated in a carjacking.

He was caught and sentenced to nine years in an adult prison. The anthology "The Black Poets," which he read while in solitary confinement, changed his life.

Betts earned his GED in prison and started writing.

On Jan. 16 at 7 p.m., he'll share his inspirational story as part of the library's Hear & Now author series, illustrating how the powerful effect of language, poetry and his own determination helped him survive in a hostile environment and, ultimately, take control of his future.

Betts is the author of the memoir "A Question of Freedom" and two books of poetry, "Shahid Reads His Own Palm" and "Bastards of the Reagan Era," the latter of which received the 2016 PEN New England Award in Poetry and made Library Journal's "Best Books 2015: Poetry" list.

He is also the national spokesman for the Campaign for Youth Justice, a presidential appointee to the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, winner of a NAACP Image Award and recipient of a Radcliffe Fellowship to Harvard University's Institute of Advanced Studies. He graduated from Yale Law School last year.

Tickets for Betts' presentation, which will be held at the McConnell Arts Center, 777 Evening St., can be purchased for $15, which includes admission to a 6 p.m. meet-the-author reception. Tickets are available now at the MAC, by phone at 614-431-0329 and online at mcconnellarts.org/.

Betts will be the featured speaker at Worthington's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration on Jan. 16.

The free event starts 11 a.m. at Worthington United Methodist Church, 600 High St.

In addition to these events celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the library also will partner with the Worthington Historical Society to present a free program on Jan. 10 about Worthington's ties to the Underground Railroad. The session, which starts at 7 p.m. at the MAC, also will touch on African American history in the city, both before and after the Civil War.

Hillary Kline is communications specialist for Worthington Libraries.