This episode of the National Gang Center’s Voices From the Field podcast shares lessons learned from Victor Gonzalez, Jr., a gang prevention and intervention expert from Houston, Texas, who has decades of experience working with gang-involved youth in communities impacted by serious gang and gun violence.
The interview focuses on Gonzalez’ background and how he became motivated to be an outreach worker for youth in gangs and those at risk for becoming gang members. He discusses his own upbringing in a predominantly Latino community where he was familiar with the criminogenic influences that drew youth into gangs, crime, and violence. He experienced a constructive family influence that guided him into a college education that led him by choice to become involved with community action groups that served the neighborhood of his childhood. Having been exposed to the conditions in which immigrant youth were continuing to experience, he had the distinctive qualifications of a youth outreach worker. He understood the influences toward gangs and crime, but also the opportunities, services, and activities that he knew could help the youth of his community take a positive direction away from youth gangs and crime. He recounts some cases in which the friendships he developed with youth in his outreach work led to positive interactions and outcomes.