Transformation Stories

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


"Nothing here weighs less than 50 pounds,” observes Miguel Avila. “Everything has to be moved by crane.” The Homeboy Industries graduate is on the campus of Weber Metals, where he is enrolled in an apprenticeship program. He’s wearing futuristic-looking coveralls to protect him from fiberglass insulation inside a giant oven.

Two years ago, Miguel and his girlfriend made a decision to change when they lost custody of their newborn daughter. After taking parenting classes at Homeboy, Miguel joined the organization’s paid 18-month program. He set four goals: to get his daughter back, work on his education, pay down his traffic tickets, and get training that could help him earn a real living.

“I’d had jobs before, but none where I really chose to come to work,” he says. “I had no skills, no high school diploma. I’d be there a couple of months and then get fired or walk out.”

At Homeboy, Miguel took classes, focused on his sobriety, participated in therapy, and earned a welding certificate. Toward the end of his 18 months, he attended a job fair at Cerritos College, a Homeboy educational partner. He struck up a conversation with a woman who turned out to be the head of HR for Weber Metals.

The confidence he developed at Homeboy is now helping him navigate a physically and academically rigorous apprenticeship: “If I put in a little effort, I can do it. They drill that into you at Homeboy Industries. I don’t want to let G [Father Greg] and Homeboy down, but most of all, I don’t want to let myself down.”

Miguel’s dreams have kept pace with his personal growth. Now his goals include advancing at Weber and going to college. His family is thriving too. “My daughter is almost two, and she sings me to sleep,” he says, imitating a few bars of her lullaby.

“Homeboy gave me what I have today,” he says.


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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