“I didn’t know what I was worth until I got here”
Midway into his freshman year at Vallejo High School in 2019, Victor’s mom pulled him out, fearing for his safety after learning that he had recently joined a gang.
“My mom wanted me to go to school there, so I could be with my sisters,” he said. “I learned that the girls had it easy. The boys were given the hard part. I fought a lot; there was pressure to choose an affiliation.”
Four years later, Victor is a recent ‘Super Senior’ graduate, earning his diploma at the end of the first semester in 2022. “I’m sad to leave on a lot of levels,” he said. “The kids here who felt like the brothers I never had. But I know they can take care of themselves. We’ve grown up together; I love them to death.”
Having been trained in multiple martial arts since he was young, Victor had some boxing experience, but it wasn’t until he arrived at Hanna that he started to “take it seriously.” A staff member designed a weekly program that led the students through training, which was to end with an opportunity for them to spar together until the pandemic shut the program down.
Victor stuck with the sport on his own time and is interested in possibly pursuing it as a career. He has options to join his dad in construction and his uncle in landscaping; barber school is another possibility.
Growing up, Victor inherited his dad’s natural ability to work well with children. “He was the oldest of seven,” he says, “and was really like the third parent to his siblings.” He also learned from his dad, that whenever he felt like giving up, if he came back, he was “that much stronger.”
Before his dad received a work permit, he would do odd jobs to support the family. Victor was able to contribute financially at a young age when he took up painting custom designs on sneakers. “I was artistic, and my mom encouraged me to paint,” he says. “I started painting on my friend’s shoes and soon people were paying me for it.”
One of Victor’s happiest memories is from 2010 when his father was a star player in a local soccer league and he kicked the winning goal in a championship competition. “My whole family was there,” he says. “I remember his team carried him on their shoulders. Someone tossed him the Mexican flag, and he started waving it.”
Looking back on the first semester of his freshman year, when he was still in Vallejo High, Victor comments on the big difference he sees in himself from those photos. “I was wearing all one color, doing a lot of dumb stuff. Hanna woke me up. I went from evolving from a lowlife to someone who wants to be somebody.”
“The people here cared for me,” he says. “The staff members and faculty; many were role models who helped me find myself. They made my life worth living. I didn’t know what I was worth until I got here.”