TESTIMONIES

16-year-old Chris was a teen growing up in the heart of the Westside impoverished community of San Antonio and attending Lanier High School. He lived and grew up with many odds against him such as living in an area with high crime rates, high gang activity, high teen pregnancy rates, high rate of school dropouts and disproportionately exposed to high rates of structural and systemic violence and trauma and more closely to home he had his two older brothers serving time in prison. Chris states, “I was lost and confused, and following his two brothers footstep right into prison.” Chris knew he wanted a different path and began hanging out with his friends at a local community center as an alternative of not being in the streets.  
Chris attributed his life changing moments to participating and volunteering at the Guadalupe Community Center (GCC), especially having the guidance and nurturance of the staff and Coach John. Chris stated, “I felt welcomed and the staff sometimes were strict but offered a safe place for us to hang out.”

John Vacca worked at the Guadalupe Community Center at a time when there was a high rate of gang activity. John created a innovating youth program /youth interventions guided the boys into manhood through a process that helps them acknowledge and understand their own wounded spirits. Through John’s teachings and role modeling for adolescent males the principles of true manhood a deeper meaning and purpose for life is created. John engaged and encouraged youth “who just wanted to hang out” to participate in sports and as an outreach worker he worked to seek and bring in very hard to reach youth who were abusing drugs and alcohol. By combining the outreach work for youth, organizing sports events, and the culturally relevant and strength-based program that offers leadership, spiritual, and empowerment experiences, Chris and the other teens had an understanding that there was a better path for their lives. 

Furthermore, Ms. Solloa the Executive Director of GCC stated: Mr. Vacca’s intervention approach is remarkable in that he connects to these emotionally injured and marginalized youth through passion and commitment to the possibility of change originating from his own life experiences of trauma, survival, and transformation.
 John has recently launched Mission Possible 360 a non-profit organization to continue working with young men who are in the brink of dropping out of school or going into the juvenile detention system. 

Today Chris is 26 years old, still lives in the Westside, he graduated from Lanier High School, is a loving father and as a result of Coach John’s youth program Chris is a store front manager for H.E.B. so against all odds Chris grew up to be a responsible young man and has been able to live a productive life. Chris learned to be responsible and a mentor training the new incoming HEB employees using the same practices John used on him years ago. Chris has also reconnected with his coach John Vacca and created and are leading “A Rise To The Challenge Basketball Tournament” on May 24, 2014 in partnership with Alex Garcia from the Youth Basketball of America. The message to other youth from impoverished communities is “With Hope there is a new beginning and youth can Rise To the Challenge with programs like MP360” Chris states: the goal is to create awareness and donations for MP 360 so they can continue to push forward the accomplishments we alumni have made and want to see other youth push further then us. Chris believes that by serving as a volunteer for Mission Possible 360 and by working with teens that they will live a better life. 


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