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Inspirational story - Houston Chronicle

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A great story from local paper.



Boy Scouts prepare Gonzalez for life


Houston Chronicle


March 16, 2002


By the time Rudy Gonzalez was in fifth grade, his life was going down the tubes. It began when he was 6. His father was shot and killed at a club while trying to help a relative. "After that, I didn't care about anything," Gonzalez recalled. "I didn't care about who I hurt or what I did. I thought if people don't care, why should I care?" Growing up in Magnolia Park in Houston's East End, he began hanging out with the wrong crowd, flunking classes and talking back to teachers. He was expelled from one elementary school after another. By seventh grade, into "more serious stuff" and fighting with teachers and kids, he'd seen the inside of the juvenile detention center. "I was a bad kid," he said. "But the people I was hanging out with were all the same. If you looked at them the wrong way, you got it." Friends were killed. Others went to jail. With a little help, Gonzalez took a different path: He became a Boy Scout. Now a serious and well-dressed 25-year-old with a college ring from Texas A&M University, Gonzalez is still a Boy Scout: Since last fall, he has been a district executive for the Boy Scouts of America.


Change for the better began in eighth grade. While hanging out at Mason Park, Gonzalez and friends met police officer John A. Trevino, who was starting baseball, soccer and basketball teams. There was one catch: To be on the team, the boys had to have good grades and get teacher recommendations. Gonzalez figured that left him out. Trevino gave him a chance. "He told me, `You will have to work on your grades and attitude,' " Gonzalez recalled. "I thought, `Well, maybe he cares about me.' Kids can tell when someone is honest and sincere and comes from the heart." When Gonzalez occasionally acted up, Trevino called him on it. Gonzalez is grateful he did. One afternoon, during practice, Gonzalez and his friends told Trevino they wished they could go camping. Trevino, a scoutmaster, suggested they join a Boy Scout troop.


"Most of the guys in our neighborhood thought Scouting was for sissies," Gonzalez said. "But Trevino told us that if we wanted to go camping, learn to ride horses and shoot rifles, we needed to join the Scouts." Seven or eight boys started a troop, the first in their neighborhood in many years. At Camp Strake, they were the only inner-city Hispanic Scouts, and they had no uniforms. "We felt shabby and embarrassed," Gonzalez said. "But we still had fun." When the boys returned, community leaders held fund-raisers and helped them buy uniforms. The troop quickly grew to 35 boys. In Gonzalez's life, things starting changing even faster after he helped save a neighborhood boy from drowning in a creek in 1990, using skills he'd learned in the Boy Scouts. He was awarded the Honor Medal for Heroism, the Boy Scouts of America's highest lifesaving medal. In 1992, he was picked to be the first Hispanic to deliver the Boy Scouts' report to the nation and meet President George Bush. The problem was, he didn't have a coat. "I wasn't going to go, but my teachers got together and bought me a coat," he said. "I saw a different world. I thought: `You know what? I can change and do something positive.' I had never been to another city, so it opened my eyes a lot." He enrolled in honors courses at Milby High School and graduated near the top of his class. Looking back, he realizes he was bored in regular classes and needed the challenge. For his Eagle Scout project, Gonzalez organized several hundred volunteers to clean up an old African-American cemetery near Lawndale. For all his hard work, Gonzalez had not given much thought to college. Luckily, Trevino had other ideas. Scholarships began rolling in, and college became an option. "It took the entire community for me to start thinking like that," Gonzalez said. "Without the support of the business community and my family, I would never have had the opportunity to go to A&M and be where I am today." While majoring in business and agriculture, Gonzalez found time to establish five inner-city Boy Scout troops and four Cub Scout packs in Bryan/College Station. After several years of working for a home-building firm, he took a pay cut to work full time for the Boy Scouts. It was time, he said, to pay the community back. As district executive, he coordinates volunteers, works with businesses to raise money and arranges troop meeting sites. As part of his job, he gives motivational speeches to students and businesses. He walks in dressed in gang attire -- shades, a bandanna and baggy pants. After sharing stories of his past, he takes off his gang costume to reveal the Boy Scout uniform he wears underneath. "When I walk in, people look at me like, `What is this guy doing?' " Gonzalez said. "But after I do my speech and make my presentation, a lot of them are crying and have a much different view."



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  • 3 weeks later...

Only now got around to checking out this post. Quite a story.


In a somewhat similar vein, there was a story in Scouter magazine several years ago about a man, a retired CalTrans worker who had been active in scouts for many years, who took on as a retirement project starting a troop in the Juvenile Hall (read jail) in the San Fernando Valley. A Rotary Club heard about him and helped with finances. This man singlehandedly turned around several lives at a time in his life when most people are sitting in their rocking chairs. Another example to inspire us all.


This is how the world is saved ... one boy at a time.

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