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Ex- L.A. Gang member faced peril ,was imprisoned

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By Don Pace

Alex Sanchez told Robertson High School students last week that he has been shot, spent time in prison and was a person who got satisfaction from hurting others.

He was in Las Vegas on behalf of the United World College and the Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center to spread the word that there is a better and much safer way to lead one’s life.

Sanchez belongs to Homies Unidos, an organization formed in El Salvador, where Sanchez was born, and is committed to ending gang violence and promotes peace by providing alternatives to gang involvement and destructive behavior.

“The message today is about having students be able to see the impact they have on other people’s lives, how violence can take control of their lives, actions and emotions and how they can take control of their personal lives by believing in themselves and being able to express themselves, by being able to talk to people about issues they may be having, especially with their parents,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez is a peace negotiator who has been in the middle of trying to get gangs in South Los Angeles to stop killing each other.

He said the Rampart Division of the Los Angeles Police Department, which refused to believe that his brand of rehabilitation, education and compassion could be more effective at prevention than incarceration, often suppressed his mediations.

Las Vegas Youth Commission member Estevan Flores escorted Sanchez to speaking venues at Robertson and West Las Vegas high schools. He said there has been an issue in the community about rising gang activity and graffiti, and this is one way to get the attention of wannabes by telling them what real gangs are about.

“Sometimes it takes a true story from someone who has been involved with some of the deadliest and notorious gangs in the world,” Flores said.

“Many laws have been created because people believe that our youth is the enemy. We know that incarceration does not work, so I’m telling them they can search for that power within and make positive change in their lives,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez was arrested in 2000 and prepared for deportation to his native El Salvador after LAPD claims that his peace organization was a ruse for gang activity.

Community activists, including California state Sen. Tom Hayden, appealed and eventually won his release.

Homies Unidos began work in Los Angeles in 1997, focusing on the Pico and Union street areas. Members have dedicated their lives to creating alternatives to crime, drugs and violence.