Transformation Stories

David Andrade: “Do it for yourself”


Homeboy trainee David Andrade has been hitting the books. “We started with the basic stuff: ladder safety, roof safety, electrical safety, terminology and names of certain tools, roof layout, the width and length of the modules, how many the roof can hold, how old is the roof. There’s a lot of mathematics.”

At the Photovoltaic Training Program at East Los Angeles Skills Center, Homeboy Industries trainees receive intensive instruction in the design, construction, and installation of solar panels. David is currently enrolled in the most advanced class.

Hands-on experience is an important part of the program. Trainees work with GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit organization that provides solar panels for low-income families. On a recent installation, “I actually got to do most of the work,” says David. “In each section, laying down the modules, cutting conduit—it was a cool experience. I thought, ‘I can see myself doing this.’”

Until recently, David’s future was not so clear. “I got out August 18, 2013. It sucked. Two strikes, no money, and my appearance—I already knew it was going to be hard to get a job.” Like a lot of trainees, David has visible facial tattoos. “My sister and a friend of mine told me to go to Homeboy. I knew they offered a lot—drug classes, therapy—and they let me do it for free as long as I signed up.”

David became a member of the community. “I was going for a month on my own. Everyone thought I worked there! I met Father Greg and he gave me my start date. I had just done nine years. I got out when I was 28. He knew where I was at.”

David’s work ethic quickly led to more responsibilities. “I’m a hard worker. I took it seriously. I worked at the Farmer’s Market, in employment services, I was an assistant in the computer lab. After only a year I was doing all three jobs. Then they told me about the solar paneling program.” The workload for solar paneling students is heavy, but David has met each challenge. “Solar panels—that’s clean energy, free energy, direct current from the sun,” he says. “It’s a career for me.”

The support and concern David has received at Homeboy is something he likes to pay forward. “You can see, people talk to each other there. They ask, ‘Are you all right, what’s going on?’” The first time he offered this kind of support to another trainee at Homeboy, someone else was watching. “Father G was just looking at me. He called me into his office. I thought I was in trouble. He said, ‘I just want to say I’m proud of you. I saw what you did.’ This is a big family environment. Homeboy actually cares. I just walk in there and they’ll ask, ‘How’s class, how’s your family? But they’re actually my family, too.” David smiles. “Father Greg has that effect. That’s an angel right there.”

As for David, an important milestone is coming up: December 19. “I get off parole and I graduate. All that’s going to happen. Everything’s going well.” He has advice for anyone looking to make the same kind of change that he did. “Take it step by step. It’s going to be hard because you have a lot of things to deal with. You’re not doing this for anyone else. You’re doing it for yourself.”


Fatherg

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Glenda Alvarenga: Hungry for Empowerment

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

Hoang Pham: “Homeboy is my home”

Ruth Butler: “Now I love my life”

Brandy Harris: “Recognize who you are”

David Andrade: “Do it for yourself”

Javier Medina: Made from Scratch

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

Javier Chavez: Mind, Body, and Spirit

Christy Stillwell: From Victim to Advocate

Gordy Abriel: Stepping Into a Brighter Future

Victor Key: A Chance at Happiness

James Horton: Compassion in Action

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

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

Orsy Jerez: Finding an Open Door

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

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

Connie Cordero: The Point of Doing Well

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

Janet Contreras: Connecting the Dots