Transformation Stories

Gabriel Lopez - Two generations in gangs, two generations of change

“I was gangbanging since I was a kid, in and out of prison my whole life, never out of parole,” Gabriel Lopez recalls. It was the only world he knew, and in order to survive, he convinced himself that his life was just fine. “I had tricked myself into believing I was happy. I didn’t raise my kids. I chose my gang, my own selfish needs, over my children. I missed Christmas, birthdays, everything.”

Two years ago, Gabriel, who has two adult children, experienced a change of heart. “I saw my baby born. So I tried to change my life.”

For inspiration, he looked to his own father. “My father came back into my life when I got out of prison. He was working at Homeboy Industries. My father, he was just like me—gangbanger, prison his whole life—and he told me to come down here.”

Gabriel became a trainee in Homeboy’s 18-month program and works in the Homegirl Café. He is studying sociology and human development at East L.A. College in hopes of earning his bachelor’s degree and eventually working with troubled teens. And his relationship with his grown children is very different. “They call me Dad. I’m a big part of their lives now. And now I’m a grandfather!” he says proudly.

Recently, Gabriel shared part of an essay written by his daughter Alyssa:

“About a year and a half ago my former gang member father came to me asking for forgiveness, for what seemed like the 20th time and I blew him off like always. He began to tell me about his work at Homeboy Industries and still I wouldn’t listen. This was a man who spent his life in this constant cycle.”

“How could my father choose a stupid gang over his children? That’s all I could think, but I didn’t know…all that I know now. [But] he was ready. He turned to Homeboy Industries and they gave him a chance. Today, he is off parole for the first time in his life.”

For those willing to make the choices Gabriel made, Homeboy Industries is the therapeutic community where change happens. “All the resources you need to change your life are right here,” Gabriel says. “And they’ll do everything possible to help you. There’s no excuse because they’ll help you with everything.”


Jose Arellano - Lost and found

Gabriel Lopez - Two generations in gangs, two generations of change

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