Kids in Richmond struggle with poverty, crime, and parents lost to incarceration. Richmond schools have been criticized for rampant sexual harassment and lack of safety. Just this week a 14-year-old boy was shot in the leg outside of Kennedy High School.
Jonny Perez knows the statistics better than most. He has lived them. This is a young man whose brother is in prison for attempted murder. Now 20 years old, he spent much of his young life stealing cars, getting in fights and breaking the law. His mother has faced many challenges as an undocumented immigrant in California, and his father left the family when Perez was still a child.
But Perez does not see himself as a victim. After a year on the run and a stint in jail, Perez started working with the Safe Return project—a community organization run by ex-cons that works to help other ex-cons reintegrate into society. He credits a lot of his transformation to the mentors he found there. Now, he is mentoring other young people through his group, the Freedom Fighters.
The Freedom Fighters held its first meeting last year, and the organization continues to make progress with Perez working to inspire other kids to change themselves and change their city.
An earlier version of this video contained stock gun footage from YouTube. After concerns that the footage was open to misinterpretation, it has been removed.