Alberto is a student from Blair High School who is from Bolivia. He is 19 years old. He came to U.S. to get away from problems that he had and to change his life and be a new person.
He had a difficult time in his life and one of the big problems was when he came to use drugs. “When I was in my country I didn’t have a lot of friends, but one day I found these popular people in gangs and I wanted to meet them. This was my dream,” he said.
“One day one person of the groups called me and he asked me if I wanted to meet his friends and be like they were and I said, ‘Yes this is my dream,’” Alberto said.
Then the person told Alberto, “First you have to sell drugs and second you have to be beaten by us and see how strong you are.” Alberto was a little bit scared about the situation but if he wanted to be like them, he had to do what they told him to do.
He started to sell drugs and he was also a part of the gang because this was his dream. “I smoked crack before they were going to beat me. When I felt that smoke go into my body, I felt very strong, stronger than I ever felt before in my life. It was very nice. I didn’t remember what happened next because I feel down on the ground and I woke up to the next morning with my red eyes almost black and pain in all my body,” he said.
The first thing that Alberto learned is there were no friends in the gang. “When I was very addicted to all kinds of drugs, I didn’t care about anybody in my life. I felt alone in my problem,” he said.
“One day I decided to get away from everything. I was tired from the life that I had and I decided to get a new life and the only way was to separate from the gang,” he said.
It was hard for Alberto to get out of this situation. “They told me, ‘If you are in, you cannot get out.’ But I had to find a way to get away from this,” Alberto said.
Alberto decided to move from his country to the U.S. “I made the decision. For me it was to travel to the U.S. and leave my parents in my country. So I came here. My uncle helped me to come here and supported me to get off the drugs,” he said.
He got in a program for alcoholics and addicted people. “I was in this program and the things that I did was to work, but not in a real job. We did art or something to help me keep busy. Also they got me to read the Bible every day. They told me that I had to do this to not think negative things. I had to get faith and positive things in my mind,” he said.
This was the process that he took to change his life and feel better about himself.
“Now I have to work sometimes. I am going to church. I study. Also I help my parents and I enjoy my life safely. I feel like a normal person again,” he said.
Alberto is also helping others stay away from gangs and drugs. He talks about his past life and drastic change to his co-workers, friends, and others whenever he has an opportunity.
Alberto has advice for young people who think they can have a better life with gangs. “Never think that the drugs and a gang are the best way to solve your problems,” he said, “because it is not. Be your own person and get away from drugs and gangs.”