January 21, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

A Look At The Santa Monica’s Gang Violence: Local Mentor Tells Story Of Coming Full Circle:

When Angel Villaseñor was growing up in the Pico Neighborhood, he always looked up to his older brothers who were involved in gangs when they were young. He remembers how he was infatuated with the gang-culture and the respect they received from their peers. But his older brothers never let him follow their path, which Villaseñor says saved his life.

At age 14, his brother two years older was among a crowd arrested in Santa Monica for a gang-related shooting. His brother was convicted as an adult and is currently serving a 28-year sentence in a prison outside of Bakersfield.

Now aged 28 and as the Pico Youth & Family Center’s sole case manager, Villaseñor recently reflected on how his life could have turned out differently.

“My brothers were involved in a gang when they were younger,” Villaseñor said. “You learn from their mistakes. Although they were going through what they were going through, they always made sure I wasn’t following their footsteps. They would always say ‘this is something you can’t do, we forbid it.’ I had resentment towards them when I was young because that’s what I wanted. Now as an adult I look back and I thank them for that, I think they saved my life.”

Villaseñor is the second youngest in his family of 10 who lived at Cloverfield and Virginia until he was in fifth grade when his father died. His mother moved the family into a house in Inglewood. His family returned to Santa Monica in the 1990s so he could attend John Adams Middle School and Santa Monica High School.

As a senior at Samohi, Villaseñor said he was approached by Oscar de la Torre in 1999 who was his outreach counselor at the time.

“There was a lot of gang activity happening in the streets, a lot of shootings and violence,” Villaseñor said. “Oscar approached me and my friends because we were influential within our crowds. He was like ‘hey, how would you guys feel to have a teen center, a place to go hangout after school with a studio and fun things and stuff like that?’ When he came at us with the idea he’s told us ‘I’m actually trying to start it.’”

Villaseñor helped with petitions and contributed ideas that helped with the center’s opening in 2002.

When the center opened, he said doors were opened for youth to be mentored just like he had been mentored when he was a teenager.

“I always remember mentors that believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself,” he said. “At JAMS I got into trouble and there was a vice principal and her name was Mrs. Everett. She was someone who was there for me. She went beyond the regular helping out. She really made you feel that you were someone especially growing up and not being exposed to resources like that or having people in your life that are really successful in terms of school.”

Everett introduced him to Liam Joyce who was a counselor at Santa Monica High School.

Villaseñor said Joyce was a mentor who always bent over backwards for him whenever he needed it.

“As a kid who wasn’t maybe the best student, you look back and really appreciate those people because they really helped you get through it,” he said. “Having those people in my life, I always knew that’s something that I would like to do and be that for someone else.”

Following high school, Villaseñor studied at Santa Monica College and Pierce College in Woodland Hills then on to the University of California, Santa Cruz where he graduated with a combined Sociology/Latin American and Latino Studies Degree. He has recently been accepted into grad school in Syracuse in New York where he will begin a Masters in Education program in the Fall.

Since joining the Pico Youth & Family Center last June as a case manager, he has been able to help guide those youth who are in danger of making bad decisions.

Many of these youth are on parole and have ties to gangs.

He said his own life experience allowed him to relate to what they’re going through.

“Growing up where you’re exposed to a certain lifestyle, it kind of influences you and the way you shape yourself,” he said. “At the time when I was young, I was infatuated with the gang lifestyle. I thought that it’s a way to be cool and a way to get respect. When you look at gangs and see what they do, they accept you. I think people overlook that mechanism within the gang structure. Gang members kind of figured out a way to show you love and embrace you unconditionally. There’s an infatuation kids get with gangs because it becomes your support system, like your family with a sense of belonging, even though it’s kind of false when you look back in hindsight. When you’re young, you feel like you belong. I don’t believe in gangbanging. I disagree for what they stand for which is hurting our own and doing all that. At the same time, the way they support one another when they show this love, that’s what keeps it going. Without that, there wouldn’t be any gangs.”

He said it was rewarding to mentor youth aged 16-24.

“Understanding all the mechanisms that go into what they’re going through really allows me to do the work that I do: inspire change and try to be that someone that I know these kids need,” he said. “Sometimes they don’t have those people at home or within the family, sometimes the situations they go through they just need someone to believe in them. I think the hardest part when you work with youth and you see the potential in them that they don’t see in themselves. That’s the challenge that I really want to bring that out, which is a process. You have to set goals and work towards those goals, but life happens in the process so it’s always challenging.”

in News
Related Posts

Anti-Vaccine and Mask Rally Coming to Santa Monica This Weekend

January 20, 2022

January 20, 2022

Ocean Avenue protest will draw 300-400 people Saturday By Sam Catanzaro 300-400 people are expected to attend an anti-vaccine and...

Popular Taco Spot Coming to Santa Monica

January 19, 2022

January 19, 2022

Tacos Tu Made opening in former Obica space By Dolores Quintana A popular taco spot is opening its first Santa...

Arrest Made in Murder of Brianna Kupfer

January 19, 2022

January 19, 2022

Shawn Laval Smith in police custody By Sam Catanzaro Police have arrested a man suspected of the murder of Brianna...

Police Say Suspect in Brianna Kupfer Murder Case Has Been Seen in Santa Monica

January 19, 2022

January 19, 2022

UPDATE: Shawn Laval Smith, the suspect responsible for the murder of Brianna Kupfer is in custody, after being located and...

160 Santa Monica City Employees Have Confirmed COVID Infections

January 19, 2022

January 19, 2022

Public Works employees record most cases among workforce By Dolores Quintana Among Santa Monica city employees there are a total...

Effort to Recall LA City Councilmember Mike Bonin Falls Short

January 19, 2022

January 19, 2022

Final tally 1,350 signatures short of required amount  By Dolores Quintana The group that attempted to recall Los Angeles City...

World’s Largest Wildlife Crossing Set to Break Ground

January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

Crossing over the 101 Freeway set to break ground this spring By Sam Catanzaro The world’s largest wildlife crossing will...

Santa Monica Unified Among Top School Districts in California

January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

SMMUSD earns high marks in Niche survey By Sam Catanzaro The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) is among the...

Los Angeles Homeless Count Postponed Amid COVID-19 Surge

January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

LAHSA count to take place February 23 for Westside By Sam Catanzaro On Friday, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority...

Anti-Semitic Fliers Linking Jewish People to Anti-Vaxx Movement Posted at Santa Monica Schools

January 17, 2022

January 17, 2022

Police investigation incidents at Eddison, Will Rogers, McKinley and Grant elementary schools By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica police are investigating...

Demolition Delayed For Parking Lot 3 Due to Injunction: Santa Monica Beat – January 17th, 2022

January 17, 2022

January 17, 2022

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes.*  New Covid Policies For SMMUSD Unvaccinated Students*  Demolition Delayed For Parking Lot...

Tsunami Leaves Santa Monica Undamaged

January 17, 2022

January 17, 2022

Volcanic explosion in Tonga sends small tsunami to West Coast over the weekend By Sam Catanzaro A tsunami that reached...

Tsunami Advisory Issued, Lifted for Santa Monica

January 15, 2022

January 15, 2022

Update: the National Weather Service canceled the tsunami advisory at 12:37 a.m. January 16. No damage expected for Santa Monica...

Santa Monica Vons’s Development Sees Design Changes

January 14, 2022

January 14, 2022

Santa Monica’s 710 Broadway development design changes shown in new renderings By Dolores Quintana The 710 Broadway Project developer has...

Bel Air Megamansion ‘The One’ Is Finally Being Put up for Sale

January 14, 2022

January 14, 2022

$295 million asking price for infamous property By Dolores Quintana The One, the most famous of all the megamansions and...