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formerly gang involved.
For a long time, rage was a central part of Ruth Butler’s life. “I’ve always had problems with anger. When my dad passed away, I wasn’t that angry, but I was still running wild. My dad passed away on September 9, 2009. That’s when a lot of my anger came out.”
Ruth came to Homeboy at the end of February 2014. “I was running wild, gangbanging, doing everything I wasn’t supposed to be doing. I came here to get tattoo removal because I was tired of people looking at my facial tattoos and judging me without knowing me.” When she arrived at the offices, she spoke with Father Greg about becoming a trainee. “He knew my brothers. I told him everything that was going on and he gave me my drug test date. After I passed my drug test, I got an interview date.”
Like a lot of trainees, Ruth’s first job at Homeboy was in maintenance. Making the transition was difficult for her. “I used to clean up the house, but this was more like keeping everything clean and making sure everything was where it was supposed to be. During the time I was in maintenance I had a struggle with myself: should I stay or should I go back to what I was used to?”
A turning point came when Ruth met Robert Juarez, a member of Homeboy’s navigator program. Navigators help trainees in many ways. “They keep us in line, let us know our daily tasks, let us know when we’re slacking off,” says Ruth. “Robert wouldn't judge me and he wouldn't be so quick to tell me that what I was doing was wrong. I felt like I was always getting judged, that people were always telling me, ‘This is what you’re doing wrong.’ But Robert taught me that not everybody’s out to get me. He helped me self-evaluate and learn that there’s more to life than focusing on just on me. He would give me the chance to look at things in a better perspective. He’s the first person that I felt actually understood me.”
Since then, Ruth has completed anger management courses at Homeboy. “What I learned there is instead of always just lashing out with anger you have to take the time and focus so you don’t end up somewhere you don’t want to be.” When she faces a challenge, she now has the ability to change her perspective. “Evaluate it: look at the situation. Think, ‘Is it really worth it?’ instead of lashing out.”
Ruth, who has two young daughters, has also graduated from Homeboy’s parenting classes. The sessions focus on communication and de-escalating conflict. “The parenting classes teach you how to talk to [your kids],” she says. “You let them know it’s okay. You don’t have to yell or spank your kid. I’m the type of person, I don’t hit my kids. My two-year-old is something else and I have to let her know what’s wrong and right. Now I know how to sit her down, have her relax and take a break.”
Dedication and a strong work ethic have led Ruth to a position as an administrative assistant in Homeboy’s development department. She is also taking leadership classes and working on completing her GED. What are her next goals? “When it comes to me answering that question, I can only think about the present. I’m still shocked at where I am today. When it comes to the future, I don’t know. I want to go to school. For now, I just want to better myself. Right now, I like where I am.” Ruth’s life has taken a 180-degree turn. “Before, I would look at everything and think, ‘Screw my life, screw this.’ Now I love my life.”