Transformation Stories

Pedro Mata: Working for a Better Life

Pedro Mata grew up in the projects of Wilmington. His mother passed away when he was three, leaving him to be raised by his father. They were tough times, and to cope, Pedro turned to drugs and gangs. As a result, he spent much of his youth moving through the criminal justice system.

Pedro’s issues with fighting and lack of self-control were landing him in trouble, so he went to Homeboy Industries for help. He had known about Homeboy for years, having been baptized by Father G as a boy at juvenile probation camp. When he first arrived at Homeboy, Pedro only took anger management classes, but after watching fellow homeboys make positive changes in their lives, he realized he wanted to do the same. He became involved with Narcotics Anonymous and asked Father G for a job. He ended up in Homeboy’s bakery, where he learned how to be accountable, work with others, and lead a team. Pedro also held jobs in Homeboy’s maintenance and tattoo removal departments.

Eventually Pedro became interested in construction through friends in the industry who suggested that he give it a try. The road to becoming qualified for a union job in construction was long, but Pedro worked hard to attain all the necessary training. As employment counselor Thaddeus Skiles puts it, “Pedro was persistent, almost to the point of being annoying. He was always in my office asking me, ‘What’s next? What do I need to learn now?’ But you know what? That persistence paid off.” Thaddeus and his fellow counselors were so impressed with Pedro’s determination that they recommended him for the pre-apprenticeship program at the Local 416 Ironworkers Union in La Palma.

Pedro also took advantage of the tutoring program at Homeboy. “I was at work and I realized that I didn’t know how to read a tape measure,” says Pedro. “In construction, you use a tape measure every day. I came to Homeboy and asked for a tutor and got one an hour later. Ann Marie, the tutor who was assigned to me, was awesome. Not only did she teach me how to use a tape measure, but she also taught me fractions. I have to use math every day at work, and now I know I got it covered!”

Currently Pedro works full time as an A-Rodman at Harris Rebar in Pomona. Next up for Pedro is an interview for the Gladiator Program, which puts him on a fast track to a full apprenticeship. Earning an apprenticeship is critical for Pedro and his family, because it brings financial stability. Ultimately, Pedro’s goal is to attain journeyman status and receive full pay for the skills he has learned.

The transition from gang life to physically taxing construction work hasn’t been easy, but Pedro knows that he’s working for a better life for his family. “I still struggle,” he says. “Sometimes I think that everything I have going for me now is too good to be true. I still have self-doubt. But then I remember that my biggest burden has always been me. I am the only person stopping my success.”

Pedro is grateful for the training and support he has received at Homeboy. “To me, the best thing about Homeboy is that they’re always there to help. As long as you’re working on yourself and moving forward, they’re there to help. That’s a blessing.”


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