Former Gang Member Gets Second Chance Through LA Conservation Corps - NBC Southern California
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Former Gang Member Gets Second Chance Through LA Conservation Corps

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A gang member said the words of a fellow prisoner serving 25 years were the catalyst for him to change his life through Los Angeles Conservation Corps. Gordon Tokumatsu reports for the NBC4 News at 11 on Sunday, July 24, 2016. (Published Sunday, July 24, 2016)

    Alex Lopez and his construction crew work on an old, damaged sidewalk in Wilmington, making it brand new again.

    A second chance: it's something Lopez knows all too well. 

    He is a member of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, a non-profit that gives "at-risk" young people a second chance to succeed.

    "I believe, honesty, it started where I grew up," he said.

    Lopez came up in the mean streets of East Los Angeles and fell into hardcore streets gangs.

    He accepted them as his "family" and his life started to spiral out of control.

    "From grand theft auto and assault with a deadly weapon to you know, just being a menace to society," Lopez said.

    At 24, he was serving five years for assault.

    When he got out in 2002, he left with the haunting words of a fellow prisoner serving 25 years.

    "He told me, 'This is not for you: Prison life is not for you,'" Lopez said.

    He added that watching his daughter, who had just been born, grow up without a father is what hurt the most.

    Bo Savage, Alex's boss at the LA Conservation Corps, welcomed him with open arms after he was released from prison.

    "We create a family atmosphere that, by providing them with support and guidance, they may not have at home," Savage said. 

    Lopez said it's priceless to be able help others overcome major life challenges, like Jennifer Rivera.

    "I had two kids at a young age," Rivera said.

    The corps helped her finally graduate high school and now she's college-bound and hopes to pursue a career in criminal justice. 

    "I guess I would do whatever it takes to find a way to provide for my daughters," she said.

    The corps connected Lopez to the family he's been searching for all his life, and to people like Rivera who can pay it forward.

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