Transformation Stories

Will Lopez: “I’ve had my second chance here—and my third, and my fourth”

My name is Will Lopez and I am 28 years old. I was raised by a single mother of five in the San Fernando Valley, in Los Angeles. I was an honor roll kid in elementary school and played soccer.
At ten years old, I met my father for the first time, just three months before he was murdered.

I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was in December, and at Christmas when everyone else was opening presents, I was looking at my dad in a casket. I can remember my brother standing over the coffin and saying, “Daddy wake up.”
I fled from the feelings of abandonment, masking the pain and intimidating my community. I started looking for something that I had lost, and I found it with my homies. I started gang banging at the age of 11, and was first in a juvenile hall cell that same year for purse snatching. I dropped out of school, got my first tattoo and was jumped in as a full-fledged gang member by 13.

At 15 I was sentenced to juvenile life; at 18 I was moved to adult jail. I was released from prison at 23, but I wasn’t ready to change—if anything I thought I got slicker, smarter and wiser through those years. I moved out of my neighborhood, but my neighborhood was still in me. I kept going in and out of jail for parole violations.

Around this time, though, things began to change. My wife was pregnant, and I made a commitment to never be like my father. I want to be a father that is there, not in prison.
In the back of my head this whole time was Homeboy Industries. Father Greg would come to do mass at Camp Gonzales, and at the end of every mass he’d stand in the back of the room and pull out his stack of business cards. He gave them out, one by one, to every kid in the room, saying, “Come see me when you’re ready.”

Father G gave me my first card when I was 12, but I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready at 21 either, or 23, or 24. At 25, I got out of Wasco State Prison and was at rock bottom. I didn’t have anything.
I walked in the doors of Homeboy Industries 3 years ago, and I haven’t looked back. I fell in love with the place, and the place fell in love with me. I’m a completely different person now—supporting my daughter through daycare, a loyal husband to my wife, a student…I wear a lot of hats.

At Homeboy I am now a domestic violence, anger management and restorative justice facilitator. I teach creative writing and help manage the parenting class.
One of my favorite things to do here is to be a mentor to young guys. My life is good today, and I can do the things I never imagined—have a job, be a good father, go to the beach. And it’s all thanks to this program. Homeboy teaches me life skills, it teaches me to treat people differently, to treat myself differently, to accept who I was in the past and who I am today.

Homeboy Industries is a place of second chances, and I know I’ve had my second chance here—and my third, and my fourth. People like me would not achieve the great things that we do without the support of people like you. We are so grateful, and I hope you have some idea of how much your support means to us every day.


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