Transformation Stories

Gabriel Lopez - Two generations in gangs, two generations of change

“I was gangbanging since I was a kid, in and out of prison my whole life, never out of parole,” Gabriel Lopez recalls. It was the only world he knew, and in order to survive, he convinced himself that his life was just fine. “I had tricked myself into believing I was happy. I didn’t raise my kids. I chose my gang, my own selfish needs, over my children. I missed Christmas, birthdays, everything.”

Two years ago, Gabriel, who has two adult children, experienced a change of heart. “I saw my baby born. So I tried to change my life.”

For inspiration, he looked to his own father. “My father came back into my life when I got out of prison. He was working at Homeboy Industries. My father, he was just like me—gangbanger, prison his whole life—and he told me to come down here.”

Gabriel became a trainee in Homeboy’s 18-month program and works in the Homegirl Café. He is studying sociology and human development at East L.A. College in hopes of earning his bachelor’s degree and eventually working with troubled teens. And his relationship with his grown children is very different. “They call me Dad. I’m a big part of their lives now. And now I’m a grandfather!” he says proudly.

Recently, Gabriel shared part of an essay written by his daughter Alyssa:

“About a year and a half ago my former gang member father came to me asking for forgiveness, for what seemed like the 20th time and I blew him off like always. He began to tell me about his work at Homeboy Industries and still I wouldn’t listen. This was a man who spent his life in this constant cycle.”

“How could my father choose a stupid gang over his children? That’s all I could think, but I didn’t know…all that I know now. [But] he was ready. He turned to Homeboy Industries and they gave him a chance. Today, he is off parole for the first time in his life.”

For those willing to make the choices Gabriel made, Homeboy Industries is the therapeutic community where change happens. “All the resources you need to change your life are right here,” Gabriel says. “And they’ll do everything possible to help you. There’s no excuse because they’ll help you with everything.”


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