When six Saint Lawrence Academy students and two of their teachers participated in an immersion trip in February to Homeboy Industries in East Los Angeles, they hoped to gain understanding of the sociological factors in impoverished communities that produce gang violence. They got what they were hoping for in a powerful and personal way.
A former inmate, Joe, led them on a tour of Homeboy Industries and shared his own history of spending most of his adult life incarcerated. He described being held in every maximum security prison in California and related his personal story of abuse, his gang affiliation, and the violence he saw and participated in. He talked about how Homeboy Industries had changed his life and taught him to make healthy decisions.
“My experience at the East LA Immersion trip was eye opening,” observes senior Marcella Cuenca, “because all of us got to see the side of LA that no one talks about. We worked with people who are fighting for another chance to turn their lives around.”
“Visiting Homeboy provided a humbling opportunity to engage in thought centered around the effect of gang violence on individuals and their communities,” reports religious studies teacher Ben Vidovich. “The stories shared by the ‘Homies’ invited us to consider how difficult and remarkable their journeys have been, each bearing unique sufferings but a common sentiment of hope.”
When he was pastor at Dolores Mission Catholic Parish and School in 1992, Father Gregory Boyle launched Homeboy Industries using a bakery as a social enterprise business. The Homeboy model is to provide training, work experience, and above all, the opportunity for rival gang members to work side-by-side. The success of the bakery laid the groundwork for additional social enterprise businesses, today encompassing Homeboy Bakery, Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery, Homeboy/Homegirl Merchandise, Homegirl Café & Catering, Homeboy Farmers Market, and Homeboy Diner at Los Angeles City Hall.
The Saint Lawrence Academy group stayed across the street from Homeboy Industries at Dolores Mission, where Father Greg, now the Homeboys’ executive director, formerly served as pastor.
For more information regarding Homeboy Industries please visit www.homeboyindustries.org.