Transformation Stories

Orsy Jerez: Finding an Open Door

Orsy Jerez grew up in El Salvador, where his father was a lawyer and his mother a nurse. When civil war broke out, Orsy and his family moved to the United States. Though educated and accomplished, his father could only find work as a busboy, dishwasher and waiter, and his mother always had at least two different cleaning jobs.

As they struggled to provide for the family, Orsy’s parents also struggled to find time to spend with their son. On his ninth birthday, Orsy’s mother was called away from the birthday party for work. Orsy remembers this being a breaking point, of sorts. He began to seek those feelings of love and support from other sources. Not long after his birthday, he had run away, joined a gang, gotten arrested and been incarcerated. Orsy first met Father Greg while in juvenile hall – he hadn’t yet celebrated his tenth birthday.

Many hard years later, Orsy found himself in the hospital because of complications of a tooth infection. After 13 surgeries and a near-fatal coma, Orsy knew he had to make a change. It was then that he decided to come to Homeboy Industries.

When he first got here, Orsy thought of Homeboy Industries as just another job, and he had a big chip on his shoulder. He soon realized, “Every time I left work, a little part of that chip fell off. And every day I came in as a different person.”
During his time at Homeboy, Orsy committed entirely to the process of redirecting his life. In just 18 months, Orsy got his driver license, got off parole, and removed many of his tattoos. He worked one-on-one with mental health counselors to address anger and addiction issues.

Among his many responsibilities at Homeboy was providing tours of the headquarters, which had a surprising result. Orsy frequently heard Father Greg say, “No one becomes a gang member because they want to join something. They become gang members because they are trying to escape poverty, addiction, violence and trauma.” Orsy didn’t realize until he started doing tours and telling his own story how thoroughly his own experiences mirrored Father Greg’s words. Sharing his story helped him learn about himself, his choices, and his struggles with addiction.

Orsy graduated from Homeboy Industries recently, and has moved on to the Urban Radish, a new market thriving in downtown L.A. He’s currently the cheese monger apprentice, continuing his training by learning about tastes, pairings, handling, displays and customer service. He is grateful for the opportunity they’ve given him to continue to grow and earn a good living. “Homeboy opened the doors for me,” Orsy says, “and the Radish reached in to pull me through."


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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