Father Gregory J. Boyle, S.J. is a Jesuit priest and has been instrumental in developing successful alternative approaches to dealing with gang violence and at-risk youth. He was recently appointed to California's Commission on Juvenile Justice, Crime and Delinquency Prevention.

To Rescue Young Lives

"Nothing stops a bullet like a job." So says Father Gregory J. Boyle who has a history of success in working with young men and women who have been forgotten or labeled as too tough to turn around. Father Boyle is the former Pastor of the Dolores Mission Church, located in the heart of Boyle Heights, an area in Los Angeles considered to have the highest concentration of gang activity. He has helped develop programs which provide escape for youth desirous of coming clean and starting over.

One such young man is Cesar Castro. In and out of trouble through his adolescent years, Castro eventually joined a gang, saw fellow 'bangers get killed, felt the cold steel of handcuffs around his wrists and found himself in a camp for juvenile offenders. Upon his release, he was offered a job by Father Boyle working at Homeboy Bakery. Castro soon found himself working next to other young men who months before were his deadly rivals. But gang ties disappear at Homeboy Bakery, and baking 8,000 loaves of bread a day gives a guy like Castro a feeling of pride. In every loaf "there was a part of me right there," says Castro. He now has confidence in his ability to create a better life for himself, his girlfriend, and their 3-year-old son. Other Homeboy businesses include Homeboy Silkscreen which prints the Homeboy logo on T-shirts, mugs, and hats, and sells them along with Urban Crosses—unique religious symbols hand-crafted from wood and metal—to the community.

Among Father Boyle's other efforts is Jobs For A Future, an employment referral center which trains young people and helps them find jobs. Clean Slate is a program which assists young men and women in the removal of tattoos, enabling them to enter the work force without the prejudices that tattoos create. This is done at no cost, and there are no age limits or gang affiliation restrictions. Release, another Father Boyle program, empowers incarcerated youth throughout Los Angeles County to make beneficial choices upon reentry into the community by discerning needs regarding education, employment, chemical dependency, and family, as well as creating connections with the appropriate resources in their own communities.

"All it takes is seeing every person as gifted and loved by God and then determining to do something to help them get out trouble when they happen to land in it." In this, Father Gregory Boyle certainly shows the way.

Homeboy Industries web site

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