Former Fresno Gang Member Honored for Life-Changing Decision

FRESNO, Calif. 20-year-old Alejandro is part of an irrigation crew with the local Conservation Corp. He takes pride in helping maintain city neighborhoods.

"Every time I do something good it makes me look good," said Alejandro.

It was just two years ago that Marcelino Salazar found Alejandro at the California Youth Authority in Stockton-- and offered him a chance to change his life.

Salazar said, "A lot of them aren't very social-- they don't know how to communicate and they have little to no skills cause they have spent so much time in the system."

Salazar is the program manager with the Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission-- Gang Reduction Intervention Program ... which helps re-introduce former gang members into society.

"Just about anything they need help with-- if we don't have it we go out and find it," said Salazar.

At first Alejandro rejected Salazar's help. Having grown up in a troubled home and being involved with gangs ... for him, 'trust' was an issue.

"I never had help before ... so when I get something like that I just get a weird feeling-- I just don't feel comfortable," said Alejandro.

Salazar said, "I always tell them-- I'm not going to tell you everything I'm going to do for you-- I'll just show you."

Since joining the program Alejandro earned his high school diploma, he's received on the job training, bought his first home; he got married and became a father.

Alejandro also goes to Fresno City College part-time ... and will soon be promoted to supervisor.

He said he is grateful for the strangers that have shown him care ... and given him the chance at the kind of life he never dreamed of.

Alejandro said, "When my daughter was born it was a weird feeling ... I cut all my friends loose, I just concentrated on her. Her and this place has changed me."

Alejendro will be travelling to Washington D.C next month where he will be honored with the Corp-Member of the Year Award.

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