Transcript

Judy Woodruff: Homeboy Industries has been part of Hector Verdugo’s life for over 16 years. He’s now their associate executive director.

But he first received their guidance after getting arrested at 14 years old. Based in Los Angeles, Homeboy Industries and its founder, Father Greg, have helped Verdugo and other men like him recognize their full potential.

Tonight, Verdugo shares his Brief But Spectacular take on change and healing.

Hector Verdugo, Associate Executive Director, Homeboy Industries: I was first incarcerated. I was 14 years old. I did a carjacking and got caught.

By the time I was 17, I started dealing drugs heavily. I was getting schooled by older homeboys about what’s going to happen when I turn 18, I’m going to go to prison, just being nonchalant, like, these are the rules in there. This is how you’re going to conduct yourself.

And I went to prison at 18 years old. That was just the way it was, just the way it is.

My father died from a heroin overdose a week before we were born. My mom was a heroin addict well until my adulthood, witnessing overdoses in my house, and murder outside. And, at the time, it was normal.

But I didn’t know what it was — how damaging it was. I have been at Homeboy Industries for going on 16 years now. I met Father Greg when I was a kid in juvenile hall about 14 years old. He’s the founder of Homeboy Industries. I see him as a father.

I describe Homeboy Industries as a miracle factory. It’s a place where gang members, hurt people coming out of prison can come to a place and really understand what community is all about.

There was this question that Father Greg asked me. He said: “Hector, why’d you get jumped into a gang?”

And I gave him what I thought was the right answer of: “Fast cars, fast women and crazy (EXPLETIVE DELETED) life.”

And Father Greg said: “Let me tell you where he got jumped into a gang. You got jumped into a gang because you were running from your home.”

Listening to Father Greg, I started to see things that I never saw about myself. Homeboys kind of puts up the mirror and shows you who you really are. And when I held the mirror up, I seen a scared little kid trying to survive.

Looking at that little kid back then and the pain that he carried, seeing that nobody really wanted us in their homes as I’m eating their food, taking up space, those things are there. They’re painful inside of me. The violence that came out of me was me transmitting my pain.

And, through a gang, it was the perfect outlet. When I see somebody young, and that I recognize the fire that they have that I used to have when I was a kid, I feel compassion for that kid. I want to hug that kid.

Trust is a huge thing that slowly starts to open up. And then you start to see the men and women, boys and girls blossom. They start to take off their hoodie, stand a little bit more taller, look you in the eye and talk. I love that. What an honor.

My name is Hector Verdugo, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on change and healing.

Judy Woodruff: Hector Verdugo, thank you. Thank you for sharing that.

And you can watch more Brief But Spectacular videos online at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.