Born in the U.S., Uriel was raised in Mexico. At age 12, he was eager to help his hard working single mother. 

He started working for a local drug cartel, but after four close friends were all murdered, his terrified mother sent Uriel to live with relatives in Chicago. Struggling, he drifted back to gangs and fought in school, where his dean referred him to BUILD, and mentor Felix Jusino.

“Felix really tried to help me,” says Uriel. “He wanted me to understand that what I was doing was not good, and it was going to lead to more drama and violence in my life. But I didn’t listen.” 

Uriel’s gang involvement deepened, he survived a gunshot wound, and was arrested on a gun charge. Alone and scared, the only person he could think to call was Felix, who came right away. 

Felix helped the family navigate the courts, got Uriel out of prison and into house arrest, and into a steady job. When a short time later Uriel lost his closest friend to gun violence, Felix helped him manage his grief and rage, or “how to CHILL” as he called it. “I realized I couldn’t risk going back to jail and disappointing my family anymore,” Uriel said, “I had to stay focused on the bigger picture for my life.” Felix helped him get a laptop, materials to study for his GED, and to think about a future. “He was consistent in giving me positive things to do. He gave me his word to help me, and he is still doing that today.”

Felix negotiated Uriel’s detachment from his gang, and with his natural leadership skills, Uriel soon convinced other friends to leave also. Today Uriel works steadily, sends money to his mother in Mexico, and feels better about his choices.

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