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CHANGE IN STEP Although time stopped for no one, the neighborhood friends Carrizalez knew waited for him back home, expecting him to return to the same lifestyle that got him into prison. But as faith would have it, Carrizalez met Wendell Tyler and Jo-Jo Sanchez of Inner City Youth Ministries in Rosamond and became a part of their program. “That’s where God touched my life,” he said. Carrizalez was soon sharing his story to high school students and talking to them about hope. He began to mentor kids and knew that his calling was to help kids who had broken hearts – something he related to firsthand. In 1990, Carrizalez founded Stay Focused Ministries, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping at-risk children and families in Bakersfield and across the country. He has spoken at stadiums and auditoriums, from Oakland to the hoods in Chicago. In 2006, Carrizalez spoke at the White House FaithBased and Community Initiatives Conference, focusing on the importance of parent involvement in the prevention of gang violence. But the key, he said, is consistency and trust. Through Stay Focused Ministries’ different mentor

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programs, the youths are constantly in contact with a mentor. Carrizalez said there are five to six different outreaches every week around the community and kids who spend time after school at the Stay Focused Ministries location on California Avenue are fed everyday. For those parents who don’t have a way of getting their kids to the programs, the mentors go to them. “We always come back to the neighborhoods because that’s where it all happens,” Carrizalez said. Throughout the 26 years of Stay Focused Ministries, many people have labeled the group as a “gang outreach ministry.” But the truth is, Carrizalez said, the nonprofit is a mentorship program that reaches anyone, not just those involved in gangs. “The streets have beaten up these kids so bad,” he said. “We are here to prevent them from being another statistic.”

Bakersfield Life Magazine May 2016  
Bakersfield Life Magazine May 2016  
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