Providing Hope: Saving the Next Generation
By CHRISS SWANEY
The gang problem has long afflicted large numbers of the nation’s youth, with 1.4 million young Americans today wearing the colors of the more than 30,000 violent gangs that peddle dope and despair nationwide.
But a Latino change agent has emerged to plant new roots for a new America. Robert Renteria is revolutionizing the way this country must work to solve its deadly drug, gang and crime problems.
Renteria, author of “From the Barrio to the Board Room,’’ “Mi Barrio,’’ and “Little Barrio,’’ demonstrates that dreams can be realized through education, determination, perseverance and hard work.
Using his life experiences in the rough East Los Angeles barrio, along with his business acumen, Renteria helps address conditions that lead to violence, delinquency, drugs and gangs while promoting education, personal pride, accomplishment and self-esteem.
“My own story of motivation, relentless drive and success remains solid proof that where you come from does not dictate who you are,’’ said Renteria.
Renteria’s life patterns would make great lyrics for a hip-hop album. He was abandoned by his drug-addicted father at age 6, suffered severe head trauma in a carnival accident as a youth and joined a vicious street gang as a teen, where he sold drugs. As a gang member, he was stabbed and shot.
“I grew up from sleeping as an infant in a dresser drawer and years of poverty and abuse to become a successful business leader,’’ said Renteria, who was recently appointed as the World Boxing Council and WBC Cares Youth Chairperson, representing 165 countries. He was also the first Latino worldwide to receive the International Outstanding Humanitarian Award for promoting peace and education and to garner two national Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards for his work as a civil rights leader and a Latino voice in educational reform.
Renteria wants today’s youth to understand that there are consequences for their actions in life. To that end, he likes to tell the story about how he converted a gang member in 2006 to believe in the boundless rewards of honest work.
“I was driving my Mercedes Benz through a rough part of Chicago and got stopped by some gang members. They admired my car and asked me how they could obtain such a cool vehicle,’’ Renteria recalled. He took the gang members to a local pub and treated them to a beer. But before they left, Renteria scrawled two magic words on their napkin: “Hard Work.’’
“I will never forget the expression on their faces. And that’s the kind of impact I want my books and work to have,’’ he said.
Not only are his books being used as teaching tools in schools nationwide, but some 200,000 visually challenged youths are also being exposed to his work, learning the importance of social and emotional learning.
Renteria reports that social and emotional learning can help students develop the understanding, strategies and skills that support a positive sense of self, provide respectful relationships, and build student capacity to recognize and manage their own emotions and make reasonable decisions.
“It’s a process that helps both children and adults effectively manage emotions by achieving positive goals and showing empathy,’’ said Renteria, whose compassion and positive business attitude gave him the most votes for Chicago’s Latino Business Professional of the Year in 2010. In 2015, he was also named to Chicago’s “Who’s Who Hispanic Leaders.”
In that rugged, unforgiving town, Renteria continues to promote his universal message of hope and dreams. “There is always a way to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles,’’ he said.
His barrio books are designed to teach children and adults that education is the most powerful weapon one can use to change the world. “These books teach our kids that the ultimate weapon is not a loaded gun, but an educated mind. That gang banging is not a lifestyle, but a death style … Bright futures are built on a strong education, and that equal education means equal pay. That is a great equalizer for any race,’’ said Renteria.
In America today, drugs kill more people than cars or guns, according to a recent FBI report.
That same report also acknowledges that 50 percent of all violent crime in the U.S. is carried out by gangs.
With high rates of gang participation and homicides that lead to death, more than one in three Latinos report they live within miles of dangerous areas where they are afraid to walk. And yet criminal justice reports find that Latinos have the lowest percentage of reporting crimes like burglary and assaults.
“We need to shift focus and start to get everyone involved in watching and preventing crime,’’ said Renteria, who also points out that reports show Latinos are arrested for a disproportionate number of misdemeanors.
But after 45 years of more than $1 billion spent on crime fighting and the world’s largest prison system, America is still drowning in a proliferation of crime, according to Renteria.
"We need financial support to further the cause and for people to also get involved to help save our kids from bullying, gangs, violence, drugs, and our kids from dropping out of school!", said Renteria.
If anyone wants to get involved with this important mission and The Barrio Movement to please contact Robert Renteria. All financial contributions are tax deductible.