The gang problem has long afflicted large numbers of the nation's youth, with 1.4 million young Americans today wearing the colors of the more than 30,000 violent gangs that peddle dope and despair nationwide.
But a Latino change agent has emerged to plant new roots for a new America. Robert Renteria is revolutionizing the way this country must work to solve its deadly drug, gang and crime problems.
Renteria, author of "From the Barrio to the Board Room," "Mi Barrio," and "Little Barrio," demonstrates that dreams can be realized through education, determination, perseverance and hard work.
Using his life experiences in the rough East Los Angeles barrio, along with his business acumen, Renteria helps address conditions that lead to violence, delinquency, drugs and gangs while promoting education, personal pride, accomplishment and self-esteem.
"My own story of motivation, relentless drive and success remains solid proof that where you come from does not dictate who you are," said Renteria.
Renteria's life patterns would make great lyrics for a hip-hop album. He was abandoned by his drug-addicted father at age 6, suffered severe head trauma in a carnival accident as a youth and joined a vicious street gang as a teen, where he sold drugs. As a gang member, he was stabbed and shot.
"I grew up from sleeping as an infant in a dresser drawer and years of poverty and abuse to become a successful business leader," said Renteria, who was recently appointed as the World Boxing Council and WBC Cares Youth Chairperson, representing 165 countries. He was also the first Latino worldwide to receive the International Outstanding Humanitarian Award for promoting peace and education and to garner two national Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards for his work as a civil rights leader and a Latino voice in educational reform.
Renteria wants today's youth to understand that there are consequences for their actions in life. To that end, he likes to tell the story about how he converted a gang member in 2006 to believe in the boundless rewards of honest work.
"I was driving my Mercedes Benz through a rough part of Chicago and got stopped by some gang members. They admired my car and asked me how they could obtain such a cool vehicle," Renteria recalled. He took the gang members to a local pub and treated them to a beer. But before they left, Renteria scrawled two magic words on their napkin: "Hard Work."
"I will never forget the expression on their faces. And that's...