Boys to Men.
Octavio Leal is a first generation Hispanic man whose parents Dora and Feliano immigrated to San Diego for a better life during the 1950’s. Octavio would grow up in the South East of San Diego and struggle to stay out of the gangs and drugs that his environment was surrounded with. Octavio would try and understand his Hispanic culture and would find himself engaged with peers and friends from both sides of the street.
He never could understand why one Hispanic would want to hurt another Hispanic, so he remained neutral with the different gangs. At times he would feel as though he was living a double life. In order to keep himself from the gang and drug life, he turned to sports and work throughout high school. It was during this time, he would have coaches, teachers and his employer become mentors in his life. They would provide him with positive role models and they would dissuade him from the life of gangs.
Octavio made the decision to become the first person in his family to attend college. However, during his first semester he was shot by a rival and forced to face the reality of what surrounded his life and had to decide whether or not to continue college. He reached out to his professors and counselors for guidance and gained them as mentors which helped him complete college. Octavio became a correctional officer and was once again surrounded by gangs and drugs.
He would be injured during a confrontation and after thirteen years of being a correctional officer, was forced to retire. Octavio found himself completely lost and was at the lowest point in his life. It was then Octavio realized his purpose was to pay it forward. He would become a mentor to young men in his community. His goal is to educate them with the opportunities they have in order to beat the odds of the life of gangs and drugs.
Octavio beat the odds and is now a mentor for the local organization, “Boys to Men”. He is an Outreach Counselor and visits local High Schools in hopes of reaching a youth to realize they have the potential to beat the odds and go to college. Octavio also volunteers twice weekly in the San Diego neighborhood he grew up in to distribute food.
For more information on how to become a mentor please visit www.boystomen.org.