Jerry Gonzalez

Last updated: 2013

Jerry Gonzalez

2013 Beat the Odds Honoree

Every indicator suggested that Jerry Gonzalez would wind up in the criminal justice system. Jerry’s father had made up his mind early on that he wanted no part in his son’s life; and his mother was too busy working to provide any guidance. The new man in mom's life was not the male role model Jerry was looking for.  From age 7 to 11, Jerry helplessly witnessed his mother suffering verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her boyfriend. He was arrested and deported, the abused ceased, but the built up anger and anxiety led Jerry to turn to the streets as an outlet. He began stealing and lying while still in elementary school, and in junior high he had taken up drinking hard liquor and pot smoking.

At 14, he was apprehended for possession of drugs and forced to enter a youth substance abuse program. With little support at home, and unable to cope with his past, the program was unsuccessful. Jerry's substance abuse intensified and he began to experiment with meth and ecstasy. By 9th grade, he was drinking heavily, smoking weed three times a day, selling hard drugs, and carrying a switchblade for protection.

The court intervened, enrolled him in the Sunrise Community Counseling Center and there he was given a second chance at a better life. With the support of his counselor, Anne Brace, Jerry began towards a different path. He transferred schools, quit drugs and alcohol, and severed ties with his old friends. Now a junior he now devotes his energies to becoming a leader and role model in his community. He maintains a high GPA, served as a mentor at the same youth rehabilitation center he attended, and advocates on behalf of immigrants’ rights, quality education, and against police brutality.

Jerry wants to attend college to explore further and develop his interests in art, music, and social justice. He draws motivation from his belief in himself and from the desire to prove wrong all those who claimed he would fail. “I want to prove all those people that said ‘you’ll just be another junkie or a person with no future,” Jerry says. “You only get one life; I intend on using it.”