WHAT IS HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES: LEARN ABOUT THE COUNTRY’S LARGEST GANG-INTERVENTION PROGRAM EMPLOYING FELONS

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photo by Father Gregory Boyle, the founder and heart of Homeboy Industries, prays with a client. | Photo by Melissa Golden

Fr. Gregory Boyle – best known as Fr. Greg by all who meet him — has been an advocate for at-risk and gang-involved youth in Los Angeles, and around the world, for over 25 years. Father Boyle founded Homeboy Industries, which traces its roots to “Jobs For A Future” (JFF), a program created in 1988 by Fr. Greg at Dolores Mission parish. In an effort to address the escalating problems and unmet needs of gang-involved youth, Fr. Greg and the community developed positive alternatives, including establishing an elementary school, a day care program and finding legitimate employment for young people. JFF’s success demonstrated that many gang members are eager to leave the dangerous and destructive life on the ‘streets.’

In 1992, as a response to the civil unrest in Los Angeles, Fr. Greg launched the first business: Homeboy Bakery, with a mission to create an environment that provided training, work experience, and above all, the opportunity for rival gang members to work side by side. The success of the Bakery created the groundwork for additional businesses, thus prompting JFF to become an independent non-profit organization, Homeboy Industries, in 2001. Today Homeboy Industries’ nonprofit economic development enterprises include Homeboy BakeryHomeboy SilkscreenHomeboy/Homegirl Merchandise, and Homegirl Café.

Started as a jobs program offering alternatives to gang violence in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Homeboy assists at-risk, recently released, and formerly gang involved youth to become contributing members of their communities through a variety of services in response to their multiple needs. Free programs — including counseling, education, tattoo removal, substance abuse and addiction assistance, job training and job placement — enable young people to redirect their lives. Homeboy provides them with hope for their futures and is the nation’s largest gang-intervention and re-entry program – a model to all. Additionally, one of the many jobs one can get is being an extra on the hit show Southland who works with Homeboy Industries to make the show as real as possible.

Father Greg’s first book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, was released on March 9, 2010, which received the 2010 SCIBA (Southern California Indie Booksellers Association) Non-Fiction Book Award and was named as one of the Best Books of 2010 by Publishers Weekly.

Homeboy Industries has made so much progress that on Saturday April 21, 2012 they hosted their 10th Annual Lo Maximo Awards Dinner. The Homeboy hero was awarded to Brian Moon, the Homeboy Community Service Award was  awarded to Bruce Karatz and the Homeboy Media Award was awarded to Southland’s Executive Producers John Wells, Christopher Cuhulack, and Jonathan Lisco. The cast of Southland also showed up and went with producers to accept their award.

MEET BRIAN MOON HOMEBOY’S HERO

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IS THERE A SCHOOL DISTRICT FORCING LATINOS TO SIGN CONTRACTS STATING THEY ARE IN GANGS?

20120228-110919.jpg photo of Enrique Avila, 14, and 16-year-old brother Mario say school authorities in Gaston County forced them to sign contracts identifying themselves as gang members. (EFE) Photo from Latino FOX News

Gastonia, North Carolina – The U.S. Education Department is investigating a school district in North Carolina for allegedly forcing Hispanic students to sign contracts admitting that they belong to gangs.

At least three Hispanic families confirmed that the local school authorities had accused their kids of being gang members.

Enrique Avila, while a sixth-grader at Bessemer City Middle School, was suspended for 10 days for wearing a rosary that his mother gave him.
Evidently, rosaries are identifying symbols used by certain local gangs.
His brother Mario, then in 10th grade, was also accused by school authorities of having links with the 18 Street gang, and they forced him to sign a contract admitting he was a gang member.

Enrique, now 14, recalled that school authorities said that he had to sign or “we’re going to deport your mom or dad.”

Both students signed the contract without their parents being present.
“How is it possible that they didn’t call and warn me. They forced my sons to sign something without the consent of their parents. They have never had problems and are not gangmembers,” Mario Avila, the boys’ father, told Efe.
A similar situation occurred with the son of Silvia Calixto, Edgar Valentin, whom school authorities also supposed to be a gangmember when last year, at the age of 11, he brought a rosary that his mother had given him to school.

“They took me out of class and the school officials insisted that I belonged to a gang, and said if I didn’t sign the contract they were going to find my mother and deport her to Mexico. I have a little sister and I didn’t want anything to happen to her, and so I agreed and signed it,” Valentin told Efe.
The student said that now the police have him under surveillance, and they continuously check him seeking drugs or weapons, and they blame him for any incident of lack of discipline at the school.

Edgar’s mother, who came to Gastonia seven years ago, said that she feels indignant, since her son was forced to agree that he was a gangmember “when it’s not so” and his situation at school has been “very difficult.”

Byron Martínez, who for the past year has been helping these Hispanic families, told Efe that he learned about the abnormalities when he agreed to be a volunteer for a program and helps young people get out of gangs. That was how he came to know the Ventura family, who is of Honduran origin, in October 2011, when brothers Henry and Bryan faced difficulties at school because of their alleged links with gangs.

Alexandra Ventura, the boys’ mother, who brought her sons to the United States to get them away from gangs in Honduras, told Efe that the problems began when Bryan began going to Bessemer City High School.

“They told me he had to sign the contract or my son could not return to school just because he wore red clothing and gloves. In any case, they expelled him and that day he had to walk five hours to get home,” Ventura told Efe.

She said she did not understand what he signed because the document was in English and although later she was given a copy in Spanish, she did not have an interpreter present, or time to examine it because she got very nervous.

With her other son, Henry, he was marked as a gangmember because he was Bryan’s brother and wore a t-shirt with the signatures of several of his schoolmates.

“I didn’t want Henry to lose a whole year of school like his brother and the contract would serve to help him. I remember that the principal filled in all the information after I signed it and even selected the gang my son (supposedly) belonged to,” Ventura said.

Read more: Story by FOX News Latino

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