Transformation Stories

Javier Chavez: Mind, Body, and Spirit

Ask Javier Chavez about juicing, and he’ll be happy to share his recipe. “Celery, cucumber, parsley, kale, ginger, green apple. Mean green. Three or four times a day. Thirty days.” He learned about juicing in a college kinesiology class he recently completed. “It’s all about rebooting and detoxing. I thought, I’m working as a mentor, let me share something I’ve learned. So I brought all these flyers. Now I got ten of the boys doing it here. We motivate each other.”

Javier works as a mentor, navigator, and recovery group facilitator at Homeboy Industries. “Homeboy has given me a place of acceptance,” he says. “Recovery comes first. That’s what I try to promote here.”

Javier’s own road to recovery has been full of twists and turns. “As far as I can remember, I just wanted to be a part of something, to be accepted somewhere.” His brothers and sisters were involved in gangs. “I joined in the neighborhood. I lost focus in school. I remember drinking, smoking weed. Juvenile hall, youth authority, prison. The first twenty-three years of my life was kind of like a dream. ”

The first time Javier came to Homeboy Industries, he wasn’t ready to make a change. “I was just here for the check. Based on my actions, I pretty much fired myself.” Part of his problem was mental. “I had a strong belief system. I didn’t mind being incarcerated. I thought that was just the way I was going to go out.”

Javier’s turning point came while he was in prison. “My daughter’s mom had a conversation with me. She questioned me about my actions. No one had ever done that. Why did I like being incarcerated? Why didn’t I want to be in my kids’ life? She questioned everything about me.” He began to look around at his life. “I’m taking orders from a cop, I have no freedom. The same people are playing cards, watching TV, running to the phone. Is this it? Did I do it all for this? That was my moment of clarity.”

Javier went through drug court, an intense rehabilitation program. “It was very structural. That’s what I needed. There was a counselor there who inspired me. She was like a mentor. I knew she had been raised in the neighborhood. When I heard her story, I just related to her. I really started going into recovery. The big pants started getting smaller.”

It was time to come back to Homeboy. Javier had reached a healthy weight and was clean. “Four months into it, Father Greg saw me. I wasn’t a buck fifty anymore! And I wasn’t going a hundred miles per hour. This time I could have a normal, decent conversation.”

Then things started to really change for Javier. “I graduated drug court in a year. I became full time here. I got my GED. It took me about eight months. For the first time I paid attention. For the first time I took notes. I wanted to make sure that what I was doing what was right.” Someone mentioned college to him. In the beginning, he wasn’t sure. “Then I started having this conversation with myself. Why am I still selling myself short? So I enrolled at East L.A. College.” Javier has just completed his second semester. His grades are good and he’s studying drug and alcohol counseling. “My next biggest goal is to complete college and transfer to a university. I got a taste of something good and now I want more!”

At Homeboy, Javier works as a mentor to others seeking recovery. “I talk to them, try to see where they’re at. I stick with them, making sure they don’t backslide.” He facilitates support groups, participates in the twelve-step recovery program, and serves as a sponsor. He has now been clean and sober for two years.

Javier believes in the connection between mind, body, and spirit. “I’m trying to change myself completely. I took that kinesiology class and swimming and I’m learning how to live. I’ve been juicing and I gave up coffee and smoking. I’m conditioning myself. I have to take care of my body.”

To prepare for the Homeboy Industries “Every Angeleno Counts” 5K on October 18, Javier trains with the Back on my Feet running program. “We meet Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 5:30 to 6:30 in the morning, right here in the Homeboy parking lot. Consistency helps me. I just keep going. Even if things don’t work out, I don’t give up. All my life I’ve been running!”

The road has not always been easy, but Javier has stayed in the race. There’s a quote that has been important to his recovery. “’I may not be the man that people want me to be. I may not be the man I’m supposed to be. But I’m not the man I used to be.’ And with that I’m good. I’ve come a long way.”


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