Leaving the Gang

An experience that stands out vividly; My first facilitation was a Basic AVP training inside Heman J. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in Chino. I didn't know what to expect, but somehow was completely surprised by the beautiful faces, hearts and souls of the young gang members we encountered. The first day went really well, with exercises engaging most of the guys thoroughly. There was a lot of laughter and participation from everyone in the group of 22 young men (known as "wards" in Chino). The twelve-hour Saturday ended with everyone exhausted but flying high with exhilaration. When we arrived on Sunday morning for day two, the atmosphere was charged: it seems that the guards had told the guys they weren't going to be able to come today, then changed their minds, and it had been an emotional roller coaster of a morning.

We then did a couple of exercises and took a short break. When the break was over, one of the wards made an announcement through tears: he had just been on the phone with his girl friend and mother of his children, telling her that he was leaving the gang and as soon as he got out of Chino they were going to leave California and move to Houston so he could be far away from his gang. For the next half hour, ward after ward spoke from their hearts, congratulating him, wishing him luck and hugging him, many of them also tearful. What a joy it was to sit there and see the profound effect of AVP on one young man and many of his homies. That day changed my life.