...Never considered himself a violent person, but when he got angry, he did what most young men do - he got violent. As a young man, he found himself involved in gangs without any awareness of alternative ways to deal with his anger. One night he got in an altercation and shot someone. This resulted in a 15 year prison sentence that would forever changed his life.
Presently, he has dedicated his life to sharing the lessons he has learned. He has developed emotional literacy skills which allows him to give back to the community as an advocate for change.
Mr. Washington has been certified by the CAARR institute and has more than 10 years experience working with teens in San Diego County. He has been trained by the nationally recognized program called "Hands of Peace" and certified in the Creative Conflict Resolution Program.
He is recognized by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and Probation department for his contributions with the Youth Academy working with young adults. He is also recognized by California Crime Prevention Officer's Association and Law Enforcement to promote public safety.
Today Mr. Washington works with San Diego County Office of Education, and San Diego Probation Department. Mr Washington also works with other schools districts such as Vista Unified, Oceanside Unified, and San Diego Unified School District. Mr. Washington has impacted many youths and has given them the inspiration and motivation to know that they are valuable individuals and to always make positive choices and to never give up on your dreams.
Luis Araiza, Jr.
I grew up locally in North County San Diego by my parents who are only 15 years older than I. Myself I am the oldest of four children. Most of my family, including my father, were/are either gang members, drug addicts or both. Because of my father being of both, my mother has always been the one continuously working to support our family. My father would have jobs for various time periods throughout my life but ultimately his drug addiction would always prevail. By the time I was a teenager, I had found myself not only addicted to drugs but also found myself in and out of incarceration. As much as my mother wanted me to clean up my act, the fact that my father and I would get high together made it nearly impossible for that to happen.
Our vicious cycle of drugs, incarceration and emotional abuse continued to grow worse and worse well into my adulthood. The unhealthy father/son relationship continued on with my siblings and also eventually led to the neglect and emotional abuse of my very own children without my noticing. It wasn't until I had lost my relationship with wife and children to my horrible antics and became cell mates with my father, that I realized the lonely meaningless existence I was heading towards if I didn't make a change really soon.
It has been almost two years since that day and I have not only been drug free but I also have gotten my family back and now live a much better life and I’m a much better father to my children.
Not long after my release from jail I met Reggie by chance while he was facilitating project A.W.A.R.E. at the school where my mother works. He invited me to participate in a group session and after that first session, I knew what I wanted to do. I was so impressed with how students had such a safe environment to not only express their emotions but learn healthy ways to deal with them. Instead of turning to drugs, gangs and violence like myself. From that day on, I went to every session i could and was slowly coached by Reggie, the CEO himself, on how to facilitate groups. I am now one of the lead facilitators for project A.W.A.R.E. and love what I do because not only am I able to give back to the youth of our community, but also because I’m driven and motivated to work hard and be that role model that students, my family and especially my children can look up to and be proud of.
Robert Coble, Sr.
I grew up in Los Angeles with a single mother and having a tough childhood. Drugs and gang violence was not only constant, but became a normality in my neighborhood. As a child and growing up, I was emotionally illiterate; I did not know how to express my feelings in a healthy and appropriate manner. This led me to rebel against authority figures stemming from difficulties at home. At a young age, I became more involved in gang culture and life, using and dealing drugs which led me in and out of prison. In 1998, I was given a chance to re-educate myself and change my life for the better and I took that chance. Since then I have dedicated my life to teaching and giving back to my community. Using different treatment modalities, I have worked in several residential treatment facilities, prisons, and programs as a counselor and coach. I teach emotional literacy, effective communication, and coping skills to a wide range of individuals, from school kids to adult prison inmates.
I was born and raised in San Diego, CA. Growing up, I had trouble fitting in with other kids and I would get bullied and constantly beat up after school. I started getting involved with gang members when I was 12 years old and by then I was already involved in drugs. In a matter of time I became the bully.
At the age of nineteen I was arrested and I didn't care about my life so I continued to be involved in gangs. Because of this however, four months later, I was shot in my back and ended up a paraplegic and landed in jail six months after my injury. When I was released, an old friend of mine introduced me to Reggie. They took me to a school in Oceanside and I would watch how Reggie and my friend conducted group with youth. It shocked me how they would speak about personal things, that as a kid, I would never be able speak about. Slowly I started speaking about my own self and sharing my own testimony. When youth heard my testimony and of the consequences of my actions taken in my past, they would thank me for sharing. It made me feel good to inspire and have a positive influence on their lives, and thus began my own healing process. I have lost many friends to gang violence, with most of my family and friends doing life in prison. It is my own personal goal not to have our youth that we work with, experience being incarcerated or become handicapped like myself.
Growing up, nobody ever asked me how I felt, at home I was taught "tough love" and to deal with problems as they came. The problem with this however, was that nobody taught me how to deal with situations in my life, how to deal with my emotions when I was angry or frustrated, so I found my own way through drugs and gangs. Our youth need to be heard and be able to express themselves so they don't make the same mistakes I did and we need show them that they all have the ability to achieve whatever they want in life. Project Aware is one of the things that helped me change my life because I was able to express my self without being judged. When we are in that group circle during session, we are all equal and it's a safe environment to be able express yourself and discuss that emotional baggage that is sometimes weighing us down. To be able to express ourselves allows us to let go of some of that baggage without having to rely on drugs and violence, but rather to rely on the support of one another and learn how to deal with our emotions.
One can say I lived a difficult and rough life. My mother died when I was eight years old and my father was always in and out of jail. Both my parents were also addicted to drugs. By the time I was twelve I had made so many wrong choices in my life, it had gotten to the point where I had felt alone and empty. I truly believe that if Project Aware would have been around when I was younger, I would have had more of a chance against all the trials and tribulations thrown my way. Personally however, because I did not have the positive influence and support at home, at school or elsewhere...to had learnt and be able to deal and cope with the struggles I was facing in a positive manner, I did not change my life until I had reached rock bottom. This year marks my ten years since having changed my life around, and I'm proud to say I am a small business owner. I'm so proud to be part of the Project Aware team.
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