Transformation Stories

Damond Johnson: “We Were at Homeboy for the Same Reason”


When Damond Johnson’s daughter was young, he was always buying her fancy sneakers and other expensive gifts. “To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to live this long. I wanted to buy her things to remember me by.”

Damond (pictured far left) wanted to escape the dangerous cycle of gang activity and prison. He estimates that he filled out 150 job applications before coming to Homeboy Industries, where he found not just employment, but anger management classes, solar panel installation training, and therapy.

“I always wondered ‘Why am I like this?’” he recalls. “I was real mean. I had trouble being around a lot of people.”

Like many who have experienced trauma, Damond was reluctant to trust anyone. “I didn’t talk to Fr. Greg for seven or eight months—he was always hugging people,” Damond admits. He gradually opened up to Homeboy staff members, but he reached a turning point when he became a GED tutor.

“There was a guy I had to tutor who was from a rival neighborhood. There was a fresh beef between our communities. But I found out he was a great guy, and we were both at Homeboy for the same reason. We still hug each other whenever we see each other. And I figured, if I can build a relationship with him, I can build one with other people.”

Today Damond continues to work on himself by helping others as a youth case manager at Homeboy Industries. Eventually he hopes to combine his passion for sports and healing by becoming a physical therapist. And his conversations with his daughter (now a college student) reflect his new belief in a bright future: “Now we discuss budgeting and making a savings plan…. Whatever I learn, I want to bring it back to my community.”


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Janet Contreras: Connecting the Dots

Damond Johnson: “We Were at Homeboy for the Same Reason”

Connie Cordero: The Point of Doing Well

Miguel Avila: “I Don’t Want to Let Myself Down”

Erika Vargas: The Small Word That Means Everything

Brazil Jackson: “laugh a little harder, live a little longer”

Marcus Avery: “It’s Family”

Orsy Jerez: Finding an Open Door

Valerie Copeland: “Homeboy is a place where it is ok to be myself”

Will Lopez: “I’ve had my second chance here—and my third, and my fourth”

James Horton: Compassion in Action

Victor Key: A Chance at Happiness

Gordy Abriel: Stepping Into a Brighter Future

Christy Stillwell: From Victim to Advocate

Javier Chavez: Mind, Body, and Spirit

Carlitos Asegura: Who are we? Homeboys! How long will we run? Forever!

Javier Medina: Made from Scratch

David Andrade: “Do it for yourself”

Brandy Harris: “Recognize who you are”

Ruth Butler: “Now I love my life”

Hoang Pham: “Homeboy is my home”

Rasheena Buchanan: “You can’t get this kind of love anywhere else”

Glenda Alvarenga: Hungry for Empowerment

Jermaine Smith: “There’s nothing else like this”

Pedro Mata: Working for a Better Life

Eugene Walker: An Advocate for Positive Living

George Nunez: Being the Father He Never Had

Mariana Enriquez: A Moment of Clarity

Amie Zuniga: How an Accidental Transformation Led to a Life of Purpose

Lami Glenn: “Their generosity is what drives me”

Evan Hess: Father’s Day, every day

Dorene Macias: parenting and paying it forward

Juan Marquez: Constructing Confidence

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

Jose Arellano - Lost and found