Will Lopez’s inspirational transformation story from Tattoosontheheart.org
“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.” – Will Lopez
For more transformation stories of other Homeboy Members and an opportunity to donate to the community, visit www.tattoosontheheart.org