Participating in our programs has enabled our kids to increase their opportunities for success. We do not suggest that youth offenders should not be held accountable for their actions, nor do we suggest that they not be required to pay their debt to society. Additionally, there are a number of young people who come from stable, loving families and still choose to engage in criminal activities. Our point is to understand the background of these youth, and that there are enough young people who can be reached to make this a worthwhile effort. We know our programs can have a positive impact on these young people and on society as a whole. We have many success stories.
***THE CHILDREN’S NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THEIR IDENTITY, BUT THE STORIES ARE TRUE***
Lewis is a 17-year-old male. Lewis’ father was rarely around, so Lewis was obligated to take the role of “the man of the house”. As a result he began dealing drugs in order to pay rent, provide food for himself, his brother, and unfortunately his drug addicted mother. As a drug dealer Lewis carried a gun, consequently, his younger brother got hold of it and accidentally killed himself. Thereafter, Lewis’ mother tried to kill him. He had been in the system for 2 years. Lewis worked very hard to change his life. He too will become a father and wishes for better family ties and life for his child. He wants his child to go to school and have success in an honest profession. Lewis graduated and is now working. He plans on taking courses at a junior college.
Lydia is a 14-year-old female. She has been exposed to violence since she was twelve. She held her 17 year-old boyfriend in her arms as she watched him die from a gunshot wound to the head. She has also been prone to violence, for instance she had hit her so-called enemy in the face with a baseball bat. Lydia was born in California, but does not understand how she is an American. She says she’s a Latina. It is difficult for her to grasp the concept of nationality versus ethnicity.
Robert is a 15-year-old male. His maternal and paternal grandmothers take turns raising Robert and his two sisters. While Robert was in detention camp five of his homies were killed. Luckily, Robert was provided with a mentor, otherwise he truly would have retaliated. Robert is very bright, he worked as a tutor assistant with ABC Learn, Inc. in detention camps. He was wonderfully patience as he assisted his peers who could not read. He now understands the feeling of doing good versus the rush of doing bad.
Trina is a 15-year-old female. She was in juvenile hall and sought our assistance when she was released. She could not read when she came to us. She expressed her concerns and fears of failure upon returning to school. Trina is now able to read, yet is still insecure of her abilities. We are working with various organizations across Los Angeles County trying to find help for her.
William is a 17-year-old male. He was an auto thief aspiring to become a bank robber. However, those aspirations were soon diminished as he was imprisoned for grand theft auto. His boss owned a car dealership and would instruct him to “steal” certain cars from the lot and take them to his chop shop. William would be paid and his boss would collect insurance on the “stolen” cars. Luckily, William’s boss is now in jail for insurance fraud. William is now studying to become a plumber.
Kesha is a 16-year-old female and a mother of 3-year-old twins. She needed to provide for her children, but her inability to read led her to prostitution, as are many of our girls. Kesha is very religious, despite her profession. Kesha can now read and hopes to work in an office. There are numerous programs that will assist in her training.