Transformation Stories

Javier Medina: Made from Scratch

Javier Medina’s striped apron is covered in flour. “I’m a chef by trade,” he says. “I just started learning on my own.”

A baker at Homeboy Industries, Javier loves his work. “My specialty? I make Italian food, baked ziti, meatballs—I make everything from scratch,” he says proudly.

As a young teen, Javier dealt with his life struggles in ways that led him to addiction and ultimately the gang life. “Everyone around me, the people I grew up with—we started getting into trouble. Other gangs wanted us join them. Then they started becoming our rivals. “I had a bad temper and anger issues, I was very violent. I was a big bully.”

Eventually, Javier reached a very low point. “I was facing charges, my girl had just passed away. I was doing drugs and I didn’t care about anything. I started to feel lost. I didn’t know where to go.”

With the help of his mother, Javier started recovery with Alcoholics Anonymous. Soon after, he came to Homeboy Industries for tattoo removal. “I was curious about this place. I started asking around. They gave me an interview. Then they gave me a start date, Oct. 1 of last year.”

Javier was working maintenance at Homeboy when the secret got out about his culinary skills. “I’m good at ballpark food: ribs, hamburgers, hot dogs. I would make food on the weekends and people here would say, ‘We heard you had a barbecue and you didn’t invite us!’” One day, Javier brought some of his famous ribs to the café. “They tried them. And Hector [Verdugo, Associate Executive Director at Homeboy] said, ‘Hey, these are pretty good.’”

Now Javier bakes bread for Homeboy. “This is the job for me. I love it. I don’t see it as a job. I go home happy, not tired.”

The Homeboy community has been instrumental in helping Javier transform his circumstances. “I’ve never seen any gang prevention program like this. They helped me out with my anger issues. I see a therapist. I’m always happy now. I’m calm. I was known for my violence. When I run into people I knew back in the day, they say, ‘I’m not used to you being so nice.’ I say, ‘I’m in recovery. I don’t do drugs, I’ve been clean.’ And they say, ‘You look happy, man. I want what you have.’ I tell them, ‘You want this? I can take you to a place when you’re ready to stop messing around.’”

He adds, “This program really works, really changes people who take it seriously. I was ready for the change, and it changed my life.”


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