Armando Alvarez II’s family members led him into and out of gang life, introducing him to drugs and alcohol before he entered junior high and then eventually to drug dealing and violence. It was an older brother who brought him to the church 20 years later where he had what he describes as a miraculous conversion.
Now Alvarez is working to be a similar, positive big brother figure to help others break free of the cycle of violence. Community Regional Medical Center and UCSF Fresno have secured grant funding to pay Alvarez as a gang intervention specialist to meet with willing patients who end up in the emergency department because of their association with gangs.
“I go in with my heart and my passion. And I go in with my story,” Alvarez describes his meetings with patients. “I try to be a friend. I try to be a mentor. I try to be whatever they’ll allow me to be in their life and sometimes they are willing to change their lives.”
Sometimes the seed he plants during those encounters takes months to come to fruition, and he gets a call asking for help. They remember his story. How he went from gun-toting drug dealer to becoming a husband, father of four, resource counselor at a Fresno Unified School District middle school, a gang redirection counselor with Comprehensive Behavioral Services working with youth on probation, a minister at River of Life Church and doing intervention work at the downtown Fresno emergency room.
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