Class of 2002
Duc Pham (Los Angeles resident) has succeeded in turning his life around. An example of perseverance teamed with vision, Duc exemplifies the successes of the Gang Violence Bridging Project (GVBP)Âpart of the prestigious Pat Brown Institute at Cal State L.A. with which he has been allied since 1996.
It wasnÂt long after Duc and his family came to the United States from Vietnam and settled in Boyle HeightsÂ Pico Garden projects that a stroke claimed his fatherÂs life. Duc was 12 years old. ÂIt hurt me emotionally,Â says Duc. ÂI didnÂt know how to cope with the loss of someone close to me.Â He became involved with gangs, and at 15 he was arrested for assault and sent to Juvenile Hall. Released, but with no skills or prospects, Duc was again arrested, this time for selling drugs. Altogether, Duc spent three years in juvenile halls, probation camps, and continuation schools.
It was while he was in juvenile camp for the second time that Duc decided to do something to change his life. Scheduled to be released in a month, Duc approached his counselor. Ironic as it now seems, Duc felt strongly that he didnÂt have the skills to survive on the outside. He recalls, ÂMy counselor thought that I was afraid of getting out because someone was after me. But the reality was that I felt like I had no opportunity or hope for the future.Â
The counselor laid out a series of possibilities, emphasizing the importance of an education. After his release, Duc set out to finish his high school requirements. The Los Angeles Conservation Corps provided him with his first job at 18, and it was during that time that he met Gilbert Sanchez, director of the GVBP. With this new connection came access to the quality education Duc knew he needed and, with GilbertÂs help, Duc was able to enroll at Cal State L.A. by fall 1996. He chose to major in Criminal Justice with a minor in sociology. The point was to get experience and educationÂÂto better myself so I could better serve at-risk youth,Â he explains.
While no one will dispute that DucÂs original goal was to help himself, itÂs clear that heÂs passionate about giving hope and purpose to those youngsters with whom he so closely identifies. HeÂs involved with the National Network of Violence Prevention Practitioners, and speaks to youth groups, community organizations, and incarcerated youth. He was the guest speaker at the 2000 Latino Education Summit, where he shared his experiences with educators and administrators of educational institutions, emphasizing the lack of attention and opportunity given our cityÂs at-risk children. As an employee of the GVBP, Duc coordinated the inaugural Association of Community-Based Intervention Workers.
Currently heÂs volunteering for a project very close to his heart and in his own Boyle Heights neighborhood. Called Youth Opportunity (intensive transition back to the community), the project works to get young people who are released from probation camps back into school or into jobs.
Duc graduated with a B.S. in Criminal Justice on June 15, 2002. He plans to continue working to establish reentry programs for juveniles. He is intent on providing them with the same critical options and support he had when he made his momentous change.
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