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Hello my name is Alex Lopez….

At the age of 15, I was involved in gangs and soon began committing crimes on the streets. I was arrested and sent to the Youth Authority at the age of 15 for a gang related drive by shooting. I now realize that I am not able to get back the two years that I have lost behind bars but I am definitely making up for lost time. I can honestly say that I am blessed to be where I am today. If you had asked me 5 years ago what my future would be like, I would have probably answered, “in prison”.

During my time with the corps, I have achieved my HS Diploma, obtained my drivers license, earned (2) AmeriCorps Education Awards totaling $7,087.50, received on the job training, and learned life skills to help me become a productive member of the community. I was selected for the Division of Juvenile Justice Outstanding Achievement Award for Juvenile Courts. The award recognizes achievements by young ex-offenders who have changed their lives.

I am currently working at the corps on an irrigation crew. I have learned several skills while working at the corps. I am now able to change sprinklers, operate sprinkler clocks, fix broken irrigation pipes, and use various landscaping tools and equipment. I have had the opportunity to show my leadership skills and taking on tasks upon myself. I am also a part-time student at Fresno City College enrolled in an English and Computer Class. I am currently using my AmeriCorps Scholarship money that I have earned to complete a two-year degree.

I really am thankful for the opportunity the corps has given me. I plan on staying at the corps to further my training and education with the hope that one day I will be promoted to a supervisor position to continue working with at-risk youth and young adults. I plan on someday returning back to the Youth Authority as a motivational speaker to inspire others to change their lives. I would like to let others know that people can change for the better and inform them that there are programs and people that are willing to help young offenders such as the corps and its staff. I would especially like to thank Marcelino Salazar and Veronica Marin for believing in me, helping me change my life, and encouraging me to not give up.

I am a young man who is ready to face the real world and willing to take advantage of any positive opportunities offered to me. The young troubled juvenile from the past was just a boy who was lost in this world with no guidance or support. With the help from the right programs and the right people, anyone can change their life if they really want it. I was recently married, became a father to a beautiful baby girl and just purchased my first home with the help of my family in the summer of 2009.

I had another baby girl this last year and have also been promoted to a staff position of Crew Leader in the Recycling Program.

I would like to thank you all for giving me the opportunity to be here today to share my story…


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