Some Undocumented Students Will Now Qualify for State Aid

October 13, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Undocumented students in California and their allies were celebrating this week following Gov. Jerry Brown’s Oct. 8 signing of a controversial bill that will allow some undocumented students to qualify for state funded financial aid.

“The signing now of both parts of the California Dream Act will send a message across the country that California is prepared to lead the country with a positive and productive vision for how we approach challenging issues related to immigration,” said Assemblymember Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), who authored both bills.

In July, Brown signed AB 130 that allows undocumented students to apply for private scholarships to support their education at University of California, California State University and California Community College campuses.

AB 131 now also allows undocumented students, who meet certain eligibility requirements, to apply for state-funded scholarships and financial aid. Students must have attended a California high school for at least three years and graduated, and assert they are in the process of legalizing their immigration status. Like all California students who receive non-merit based aid, they must also meet financial need and academic requirements.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the passage of AB 131 an investment in the dreams of talented undocumented students and in the future economy of California.

LAUSD School Board President Mónica García called Brown’s leadership in signing the bill “heroic and historic,” and said they urge Congress and President Obama to address issues related to the Federal Dream Act immediately.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which runs numerous parochial schools in the county, also chimed in.
“The governor’s signature clears the path for immigrant students to further their education … These students have already demonstrated their academic ability and commitment; they deserve the opportunity to pursue their goals for the future,” Archbishop José H. Gomez said in a statement.

Angelica Salas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles (CHIRLA), called it a great day “for immigrant students who have kept their end of the bargain and continue to give their best to the only nation they know as their home.”

Cedillo has reiterated that the California Dream Act was approved despite lack of initial support.
“The thousands of people and dozens of organizations who continued to fight for the California Dream Act year after year, in spite of the advice of experts and pundits who said it couldn’t or shouldn’t be done,  have now seen their work vindicated.”

Cedillo thanked the students who he said continued to make phone calls, write letters, and travel to Sacramento to urge legislators and the governor to pass the bill, despite knowing they would not personally benefit from its enactment.

“They have the most to be proud of because their work has been on behalf of others – the young students who they will never know who will be lifted up because of their dedication and sacrifice,” Cedillo said.

Not everyone, however, was happy with the bills signing.

Kristen Williamson, a spokesperson for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a national organization pushing tougher enforcement of immigration laws, said the bill is “a reckless use of taxpayer money” at a time when the state is broke.

Several state Republicans are also unhappy with the governor’s signing, and one assemblyman, Tim Donnelly of San Bernardino, said he would launch a referendum campaign to overturn the measure
Donnelly said times are tough, and the state has had to cut services and raise tuition at state colleges and universities, and many students have seen their grant amounts cut over the last year. Allowing illegal immigrants to receive financial aid is an insult to legal residents and citizens, and will serve as just another reason for people to cross the border illegally, he said.

The state Department of Finance estimates that about 2,500 students would qualify under the bill, and estimates the cost to be $14.5 million, or 1 percent of the $1.3 billion program.

The San Gabriel Valley Dream Team—which includes undocumented students from Montebello, East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights—highlighted the role of undocumented students who have “courageously come out of the shadows to share their experience.”

“As undocumented students, we’ve faced a particularly difficult challenge in financing our education because of our ineligibility to apply for financial aid,” said Nancy Meza, a former LAUSD student and past member of United Students in East Los Angeles. “

“…But the fight doesn’t end there, we have a lot of work to do,” said Jose Luis Alvarenga, a student at Pasadena City College. His groups said they still want comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship, and for deportation of undocumented students to stop.

“…My father is set to be deported next month and helps me with school, I want to fight for him and the families being torn apart” said Anayely Saguilan a Pasadena City College student and a member of the San Gabriel Valley Dream Team.

Local Veterans Group Hopes to Bring Sense of ‘Camaraderie’ to Fellow Vets

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces may no longer be in combat or on duty, but some who have hit on hard times are still battling on a daily basis to survive on the streets.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Veteranos Locales Aportan Sensación de “Camaradería” con Compañeros Desamparados

To give their brethren a day of rest and renewal, local veterans are organizing a “Stand Down for Homeless Veterans,” event on Oct. 20 at Whittier Narrows Recreation Center in South El Monte.

Local groups hope to connect homeless veterans with a support network of fellow veterans and resources, as well as provide an opportunity for camaraderie and friendship.

“It’s always hard to take handouts, but this is vet to vet. This is a hand up,” says Gus Ugalde, a member of the Veterans of East Los Angeles College, VELAC, which is initiating a “Socks ‘n’ Undies” drive.
The East Los Angeles College-based group is seeking donations of socks and undergarments in the weeks leading up to the “Stand Down” event.

Veterans Service Center staff Randy Urena, Andrea Luna, and Tony Zapata, picture from left to right, hope to fill up at least ten of these bins with socks and underwear donations for homeless vets. (EGP photo by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)

A Marine veteran himself, Ugalde says veterans enjoy the company of other veterans and the stand down will be a good opportunity to get together.

Despite their service to the country, the odds for stability are not good for minority veterans. Of the 100,000 homeless veterans in the country, more than 50 percent of them are African American or Latino, even though they are only 12 to 15 percent of the population, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

Veterans are also more likely than most to become homeless, with nearly a fifth of the homeless population made up of veterans, even though veterans only make up an eighth of the overall population.

Ugalde says many veterans who become homeless may be feeling the effects of post-traumatic stress and may not know about the numerous healthcare and shelter resources available to them. There are also veterans who may be reluctant to use existing health facilities based on the “horror stories” they hear.

Andrea Luna, a veteran and staff member at ELAC’s new Veterans Service Center, says contrary to reputation, veterans facilities, including hospitals, have been modernized, and are better run and better equipped. “It’s not as difficult as it used to be,” she says.

The ELAC Veterans Service Center opened this past summer following years of campaigning by VELAC. The center is staffed by veterans and includes a computer room and a multi-purpose gathering space. The staff there can guide veterans through the process and paperwork to get benefits, and to provide help on any aspect of returning to school and civilian life.

The center’s staff and members of VELAC are eager to get the word out about the Stand Down to the community. Tony Zapata, assistant program director of VELAC, hoped to attract interest by shortening the word “underwear” to “undies,” which gave the important issue a catchier ring. They also created a mascot called “Choniz-Man,” a muscled superhero wearing briefs over his tights and socks instead of boots.

Luna was quick to remind that there are many female veterans who will need women’s socks and undergarments.

The staff and VELAC hope to fill up several bins with “sock ‘n’ undies” through the help of the surrounding community. They will be receiving donations at their office, located in the E1 Building on the ELAC campus, 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park, CA. They can be reached at (323) 416-5052 or through email at veteranservices@elac.edu.

Donations can be in the form of new socks, undergarments including boxers, briefs, panties, bras, and under shirts. They will not be accepting used garments. On Oct. 13, they will also set up an information and fundraising booth on campus to collect donations and get the word out about the event.

The “Stand Down” on Oct. 20 will last from 8am to 4:30 and include food & drinks and live entertainment. Veterans will also get access to housing assistance, medical care, dental care, vision care, hygiene and grooming services, clothing donations and laundry services, mental health and substance abuse counseling, veterans benefits assistance and employment training services, legal services. It will take place at 1201 Portrero Avenue, South El Monte, CA 91733.

The event will be hosted by the San Gabriel Valley Veterans Employment Committee and the Office of Congresswoman Judy Chu, California’s 32nd District.

Franklin High School Student Chosen for Rose Parade Court

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A 17-year-old Benjamín Franklin High School student on Monday was named one of the seven princesses to serve on the Tournament of Roses Royal Court.

Rose Princess Sarah Nicole Zuno, a Northeast Los Angeles area resident, plays on the Franklin varsity basketball and softball teams. She is fluent in Spanish, a student mentor, and the school’s Glee Club co-president. Her future plans include possibly pursuing a career in corporate law.

One of the 34 finalists, Zuno was selected from the more than 1,000 teens and young women who applied for the opportunity to preside over the 2012 Rose Parade.

Rose Princess Sarah Nicole Zuno is a student at Franklin High School in Northeast Los Angeles (Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association)

The other princesses selected are: Morgan Eliza Devaud, 18, La Canada High School; Stephanie Grace Hynes, 18, Maranatha High School; Cynthia Megan Louie, 17, La Salle High School; Kimberly Victoria Ostiller, 17, Flintridge Preparatory School; Drew Helen Washington, 16, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy; and  Hanan Bulto Worku, 17, Pasadena High School.

“We could not be more proud of the seven young ladies that will be representing the Tournament of Roses as the 2012 Royal Court,” said Amy Wainscott, chair of the Queen and Court Committee. “They were selected from a pool of the most talented and poised in the Pasadena area. They are outstanding role models and will be wonderful ambassadors for the Tournament of Roses.”

The Rose Queen will be selected from among the seven Royal Court princesses on Oct. 18. The queen and royal court will reign for an entire year until the new court is selected in October of 2012.

4a Edición de la Fería de los Moles

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Foto de EGP por Gloria Angelina Castillo

El aroma apetitoso atrajo fanáticos de la gastronomía a La Placita Olvera el pasado 9 de octubre. La Feria de Los Moles 2011 llenó a la zona con los sabores riquísimos y distinguidos del mole tradicional mexicano. Ambos Angeleno y turistas formaron lineas largas para uno o más platillos que estaban para chuparse los dedos.

EDITORIAL: Montebello Needs to Stop Playing the Blame Game

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The residents of Montebello need to loudly let their city officials know whether they think it is okay for either the City Council or paid City staff to restrict a duly elected council member from voicing her opinions on city matters.

Can a city withhold the city letterhead from an elected council member? Should a non-elected city manager and city attorney have such a strong influence over the city council that they would be willing to pass a city ordinance that would prohibit a fellow elected council member from speaking for the city — and restrict that privilege to the “mayor” of the moment or the city manager?

We think not.

We understand that there are limits, no one councilmember should be allowed to make city policy or use city letterhead in a way that makes it appear that they are the official voice of the city, when in fact they are not.

By the same token, however, the council should not be allowed to silence an elected official whose views they don’t happen to agree with.

Members of the council and city staff are blaming City Councilmember Christina Cortez for besmirching the city’s reputation by seeking to have HUD, FBI, and the Attorney General investigate whether city failed to use certain restricted funds as required by law.

We have no doubt that the years of political infighting in Montebello have left many in the city wary of any pronouncements by either city staff or council members that there is no need to worry,  “everything will be okay.”

These latest efforts by the city manager and city attorney, most likely with the blessing of members of the council, smack of the same type of pettiness and behind closed door politics that most people hoped were a thing of the past.

Like it or not, Montebello had been mismanaged for years and not talking about it will not make it all go away. Two weeks ago the press was blamed for the city’s problems in securing a bridge loan, we have to wonder who they’ll blame next.

If anything, by keeping city staffers and elected officials feet to the fire, they have been forced to deal with issues that were for too long swept under the rug in order to paint Montebello as a place with few if any issues.

It’s not unreasonable to think that had it not been for residents, and yes Councilwoman Cortez, keeping the pressure on, the city would have continued many of its past bad habits.

That being said, it is also important to acknowledge that for the most part, the people now running Montebello are new, and not responsible for past wrongdoings. They should be credited for what they have done to turn things around. We also would like to remind Councilwoman Cortez that it not enough to oppose what is going on, you also have to put forth workable strategies for moving forward.

Who is right and who is wrong?

Far more details on the entire matter, read Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou’s story on the front page.

Hire Teenagers: A Solution to Joblessness in America

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

At the recent LinkedIn-sponsored town hall meeting, President Obama stated that we must “make sure your neighbors and friends also have jobs.”

I’ve got a suggestion that doesn’t cost much, doesn’t need a government agency to run it, and could help reinvigorate our cities: hire teenagers.

Nationally, youth unemployment hovers around 20 percent. In neighborhoods where low-income African American and Latino youth are the majority, unemployment approaches 40 percent for people under 24 years of age.

I teach at Game Theory Academy, a nonprofit I founded to make economic education more relevant, and accessible to marginalized youth. In our classroom conversations, we discuss topics such as how the economy works, how students can act in their own best interest, and the opportunity costs of doing nothing, rather than working or pursuing education. Students often ask me, “Hey, Trish, can you find me a job?”

Among students at Game Theory Academy, a shocking 63 percent report not having any kind of part-time job. When I was 15, I got a job at a local real-estate office answering phones. I worked at a copy shop the summer before college. But it’s not the 90s anymore, and businesses don’t hire teens the way they used to.

The receptionist answering the phones at the local real estate office is easily twice the age I was when I did that job. I’ve never seen a teen at the register at the copy shop near my office. Adults need those jobs too: but could they use some support from an eager teen?

The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that small businesses generated 64 percent of all jobs created in the last 15 years. If they are the engine for growth, then small businesses are in the best position to take the lead on ending youth unemployment.

Back of the envelope: if a local, small business hires one teenager for ten hours per week at ten bucks an hour, the cost is about $100 per week, plus some supervision expenses. Assuming 50 weeks of work in the year, that costs $5,000 and change.

Oakland, where I am based, is home to 25,000 youth ages 15 to 19, and at least 10,000 small businesses. If each of those businesses hired one job-seeking teenager, we could make a huge dent in that 40 percent youth unemployment number. Do the math in any city, and it’ll add up.

What impact will this have?

Youth are local spenders. They ride the bus. They buy snacks and go to movies. If our young workforce spends in Oakland and nearby cities, that’s estimated to be close to $500 in annual sales tax revenue per youth – or $6 million total. Imagine the effect if cities in every state joined this call to action.

A majority of juvenile crimes are property crimes. Teens who earn money have less incentive to steal and deal drugs. A paycheck shifts the risk-reward ratio. They are too busy. They have money in their pockets and a sense of opportunity.

Teens who work are more likely to find and sustain jobs as they age into adulthood. Studies show that unemployment as a youth leads to a lifetime of lower wages. It also lowers life expectancy. Give youth jobs now, and they will have higher lifetime earning potential – and the habit of employment and better health. Once you’ve had a job, you want another one.

Dust off an apron or a clipboard and invest $5,000 in our nation’s youth, and in your own business. They might surprise you with the value they add.

Patricia Johnson is the Director of the California Council on Youth Relations and the founder of Game Theory Academy.

The Environment Could Use Some Rich Friends

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Healthy forests,
Seas, and air;
Takes big bucks,
To keep them there.

It seems likely that the environment here on Earth is doomed. Sure, we all want clean air, clean water, biodiversity, pretty coral, precious neighborhoods, and the like. But there are other things we seem to cherish even more: gasoline, air conditioning, heat, cheap food, bright lights, swift highways, and meat.
Americans are notoriously excessive consumers. But now it turns out that the rest of the world, approximately another 6.7 billion people, covets many of the same things we have. Indians want air conditioning, Latin Americans want cars, Arabs want refrigerators, and Africans want food they can afford.

Our love affair with oil has unleashed Middle Eastern wars. Likewise, human craving for air conditioning and the electricity to run it pays for blowing the tops off coal-rich mountains in Appalachia and the building of hydroelectric dams in Brazil’s priceless rain forests. Similarly our lust for cell phones pays Finnish manufacturers to buy rare metals from Congolese smugglers who hire militias amid violent wars to dig them up.

Voters might side with the environment if the options were clearly laid out on a ballot, but that’s not usually how it works.

Instead, our craving for expensive resources means we pay dearly to the corporations that supply them, which in turn provides those businesses with the cash to purchase the laws and regulations they need to devastate the environment. It’s all very tidy.

Sometimes this resource conflict surfaces in a real war or disaster. At other times the conflict is political. Just now such a battle rages over the “tar sands” in Alberta, Canada, the site of the dirtiest form of energy yet devised: a carbon-intensive process of gobbling up water and natural gas to get oil out of low-lying sands, leaving behind devastated forests, polluted groundwater, and toxic chemical pools. Still, the Calgary, Alberta Sun calls for slashing regulations that make it so darn hard to get a new mining permit.

Current plans call for scraping off a portion of Alberta’s oily surface equal in size to Florida. Meanwhile in this country, thousands of environmentalists demonstrated for weeks in front of the White House to stop the U.S. pipeline that would make this unprecedented devastation feasible. More than 1,000, including actress Daryl Hannah, were arrested. But the effort didn’t attract nearly the attention a tea party rally might have.

But you can bet that, one way or another, pipeline or not, the tar sands will be exploited. America’s thirst for fossil fuels, oil companies’ thirst for profits, Alberta’s thirst for jobs, and politicians’ thirst for campaign contributions will see to that.

Unfortunately, the environment does not have the kind of well-heeled lobby it needs to fend off all this pillaging. It depends on the goodwill of sensitive volunteers, donors, and governments to formulate laws and regulations to protect it. This is a thin reed to lean upon.

Meanwhile leaky oil rigs drill farther down, coal ash piles climb farther upward, nuclear vessels break open, and clean water resources dwindle.

Nature is already punishing us for these excesses, and without more funding dedicated to its protection, those punishments will only worsen.

OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. http://otherwords.org

Plans to Address LAUSD’s Civil Rights Violations Announced

October 13, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

The Los Angeles Unified School District announced plans Tuesday to overhaul how it teaches black and non-English-speaking students, following a 19-month federal investigation which found those students weren’t getting the same education as whites and native English speakers.

The education reforms are the result of the first civil rights investigation initiated in March 2010 by the Obama administration’s Department of Education.

The probe was launched to determine if English-learner students were being denied education opportunities guaranteed by law. Nearly one-third of the district’s students are learning English as a second language. The review was later expanded to determine if African American students had the same access to resources as other students.

At a Tuesday news conference, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy steered clear of the details about what the investigation found. They focused instead on what improvements the settlement calls for, including a master plan for English learners that is still being finalized but is expected to be in place for the 2012-13 school year.

It includes a plan for regular monitoring of new English curriculum and also calls for focusing significant attention on students who have completed basic English-language courses but are still not proficient.

As part of the agreement, the district promises to increase African American students’ access to technology, libraries, and gifted and accelerated learning programs.

The agreement also calls for the district to address inequitable discipline procedures that lead to black students being disciplined and suspended at higher rates than others.

“Los Angeles has a long and very proud history as a magnet for immigrants,” Duncan said, “but the profound demographic changes that this city has seen over the last 40 years has not come without its fair share of challenges.”

Duncan called the issues raised by the investigation difficult and politically charged.

“These are issues of enormous consequence, not just for children here in L.A. but for the entire country,” Duncan added.

Deasy said he welcomed the solutions offered by the Obama administration.
“While the district has made considerable progress in this regard, success for every student remains to be delivered,” Deasy said.

Deasy credited LAUSD board members with not shying away from the district’s own failures.

“We spent no time deciding who was to blame, and we spent little time deciding if we had issues,” he said. “Our time was spent almost entirely on how best to use the resources we have.”

Deasy used the opportunity to take a shot at Sacramento lawmakers.

“We need our state to stop under-funding its public education, over-funding its prisons,” he said.

Today Is National Call-In Day to Protect Health Clinics

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The “Campaign for America’s Health Centers” has called a “National Mobilization Call-In Day” for today, Oct. 13, and among those participating will be the staff, patients and healthcare advocates from the Arroyo Vista Family Centers in Northeast Los Angeles.

From 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., they will take to the phones and call on members of Congress and the Obama Administration to protect the nation’s vital network of health care centers that serve as the safety net for financially struggling Americans. Arroyo Vista is inviting patients and people concerned about cuts to health care centers and programs like Medicaid and Medicare, to go to one of their Northeast Los Angeles area clinics to help make phone calls.

Working families have been hurt by the poor economy and today, many more of those families are dependent on health centers like Arroyo Vista for their health care needs. Yet budget debates on Capitol Hill continue to invite further funding cuts rather than recognize the vital role these health centers fill, said Alberto Vega, Arroyo Vista’s communication coordinator in a written statement.

Like Arroyo Vista, each one of these non-profit organizations is patient-centered, governed by a board with a patient majority, and each reduces emergency, hospital, and specialty care costs,

“At a time when families are still hurting and options are few, health centers are needed more than ever,” says Vega. “It is essential that we stand together at this time and speak with a united voice to protect the health of our community.”

The National Association of Community Health Centers says the “Health Centers program faces real threats to its future as a result of actions already taken by and proposals being considered in Congress.”

“Federal support for the expansion of health centers has already been reduced, dramatically impacting existing health centers, and proposals to the Medicaid program could potentially reduce health center revenues by half,” according to NACHC.

Vega said Arroyo Vista locations will provide patients with phones to call Congressional representatives and the White House as well as petitions, sample letters and paper so they can write to Members of Congress themselves. Education about how patients and concerned residents can follow up online will also be provided, he said.

Locations: Highland Park: 6000 N. Figueroa St, LA, 90042, call  (323) 254-5221; Lincoln Heights: 2411 N. Broadway, LA 90031, call  (323) 987-2000; El Sereno Huntington Drive: 4837 Huntington Dr North, LA 90032, call  (323) 225-0024; El Sereno: 4815 N. Valley Blvd, Ste C, LA 90032, call (323) 222-1134; Loma Drive: 303 S. Loma Dr, Ste 202, LA 90017,  (213) 201-5800

For more information, including a calendar of upcoming health promotion events, visit www.arroyovista.org.

Former Boyle Heights Troubled Teen Now An LA County Probation Commissioner

October 13, 2011 by · 3 Comments 

Tomorrow, Oct. 14, will mark the anniversary of the day Azael “Sal” Martinez Sonoquí was shot by a Los Angeles Police Department officer, after stealing a car and joyriding with friends. The bullets went in through one side of his neck and out the other, he told EGP during a recent interview.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Ex Adolescente Delincuente Ahora es un Comisionado del Departamento de Libertad Condicional del Condado de LA

Today, Martinez is the newest member of the Los Angeles County Probation Commission, appointed by Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina. He credits a now deceased probation officer for turning his life around, a favor he hopes to repay many times over.

Martinez told EGP that after he was patched up he was sent to a juvenile detention center, a place he had been in and out of since the age of 14. By 17, he had already been shot twice and stabbed three times—during one of those incidents one of his friends was killed.

Martinez, now in his 40s, recalled how at the time he though he would be dead by the age of 18, or get arrested for a major crime and spend the rest of his life in a prison cell.

“I was ready to be the best gangster I could be,” Martinez confessed.

His friends back home sent him letters telling him his street status had been elevated because of the “badge of honor” scar now permanently embedded on his neck.

All that would change, however, when he met Los Angeles County Probation Officer Mary Ridgway in 1988, on the same day he was released from jail.

Los Angeles County Probation Commissioner Sal Martinez in June 2011 during the renaming ceremony of the East Los Angeles Probation Area Office in honor of Mary Ridgway. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Ridgway, who had been assigned to him, informed Martinez about the terms of his probation and quickly set in motion a plan to give him a new beginning, despite the huge odds he would have to face. “She didn’t know my parents were drug dealers,” Martinez said.

He took her advice because he knew deep inside, leaving the structure and safety of Camp Mendenhall where he had earned the distinction of being named  “mayor,” was the saddest day of his life, he said.

Now, all these years later, Molina calls her nomination of Martinez to the county probation commission “an honor.”

“He was once a probation youth himself, who has overcome the challenges that many of our at-risk youth currently face. He was one of many minors under the supervision of Mary Ridgway, the legendary Probation Department officer who we recently named our East L.A. facility after. Martinez credits Ridgway with changing his life for the better, and I know he will do the same for other Probation youth,” Molina told EGP in a written statement.

Earlier this year Martinez co-chaired the committee that renamed the East Los Angeles Probation Area Office in honor of Ridgway.

As a commissioner, he wants to pay tribute to the life of Ridgway, who was his friend and mentor, and who he credits for breaking his curse.

“I come to this body with [juvenile detention] after-care in mind. because mine was excellent,” Martinez said.

“Okay, they’re already locked them up because they did something [wrong], let’s do something that will make them better citizens,” he adds.

Specifically, he wants to ensure that juvenile probationers meet their probation officers and go over their conditions before they are released, and that these at-risk youth are tracked to small schools where they can make progress before being allowed to integrate and graduate from a local high school. He also wants them to be guided toward jobs and offered job training.

Martinez doesn’t brag about his past, in fact he opened up for the first time about it at Ridgway’s funeral in 2009. For years he even tried to hide it from his children.

“I’ve dealt with my past, put it behind me,” he said.

Living a gang lifestyle tends to be glorified, but Martinez plans to open up and share more of his life through a book he is writing specifically with juvenile detainees in mind. “[The gang life is a] shackled lifestyle, inside or out, you’re still shackled,” he said.

Martinez is an active resident of Boyle Heights, including the Resurrection Neighborhood Watch since 2001. He has been a member of the Hollenbeck Community Advisory Board, the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, a parishioner at Victory Outreach in Boyle Heights, an LAPD volunteer since 2007, and a member of the Gang Reduction Youth Development contract review board.

He is currently a 2011-2012 California 46th Assembly District Delegate. He is the operations manager for a local soda distributor. He is married and has two children.

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