Boston’s roughest neighborhoods are hardly foreign territory to Luis Rodrigues. At 11 years old, he began roaming those streets as a crack dealer. That lifestyle continued for years, until his life was nearly taken from him.
One night in 2008, Luis was shot repeatedly at close-range. He spent two weeks in a coma.
When he woke up, he realized he had been given a second chance at life. “I had 17 holes in my body, but somehow God also blessed me,” Luis told the Boston Herald. “He threw me a lifeline.”
That was the beginning of Luis’s new calling. He committed to steering others away from the gang-infested corners of Boston—particularly troubled teens who remind him of his younger self. And they listen to him.
“I can do it because these kids know I was out there,” he says, alluding to his past gang involvement.
Now, Luis belongs to something he is proud of. He is a “college readiness adviser” at College Bound Dorchester, a nonprofit that helps prepare urban youth to pursue a college education.
The organization supports participants from their first day of classes to their college graduation. Rather than continuing in the cycle of previous generations, these students gain the knowledge and skills they need to serve as a constructive force in their communities.
In keeping with this intervention model, Luis serves as a mentor. He guides students to help them make the most of their education—not just by finding jobs, but by becoming positive leaders in their communities.
Luis never gives up on them, either. As someone who spent 11 years in prison and nearly lost his life to gang violence, he knows the power of a second chance at life. His friend Manuel finally joined the program after much prodding from Luis. “I was still runnin’ in the streets, and I wasn’t ready,” says Manuel. “But Lou, he kept calling me. Kept checking on me.”
Luis kept calling, kept checking, because he couldn’t bear to let someone remain in darkness. And Boston is a little brighter for it.
That kind of investment can have immeasurable impact, especially in the lives of young people. Studies reported by The National Mentoring Partnership have shown that mentors play a huge role. Their patience, wisdom, and guidance helps at-risk youth stay on track toward a stable future.
It’s never too late to find a mentor—or to be one. Prison Fellowship helps people develop the skills they need to be effective mentors. To find out how you can offer support, click here.