Eddie Flores was born when his mother was 13. His father was incarcerated and his mother was raising five children alone. "She tried so hard to prevent me from being out in the streets," Eddie says, but he had no additional adult support.
Instead, he has experiences like one in ninth grade when a substitute math teacher (one of five subs in that class that year) asked Eddie what he wanted to be when he grew up. When Eddie replied, "An engineer," the teacher "laughed at me in front of the whole class." Eddie was soon expelled, he says, "because I was tagging, I was fighting and I was smoking. I understand what I did wasn't right," he says now, but "I never had a teacher that went ahead and asked me, 'Eddie what is wrong with you. Are you okay? Is everything all right at the house?' So when I went to Juvenile Hall I didn't know what to expect. My mom was crying outside of the courtroom."
The unit Eddie was in for his two-month sentence was on lock-down much of the time. "We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner in our cell. We had some packets thrown at us for school, but most of the time we didn't have paper or pencil to write our families. They would take the pencils away from us if we had one. We had no books to read—nothing to distract my mind."
On his release, Probation and the court threatened re-incarceration if he didn't re-enroll in school, but didn't counsel him or give him information about schools that would accept him. An outreach worker who had met his mother when Eddie was sentenced, mentored Eddie and helped him enroll in Youth Justice Coalition's FREE L.A. High School.
Eddie not only went back to school, he became an organizer at Youth Justice Coalition and a youth leader with Brothers, Sons, Selves, where he found hands-on training, healing strategies, coaching and camaraderie. Eddie, who graduated in 2014 and now attends Los Angeles Trade Technical College says that without Brothers, Sons, Selves, he thinks he "wouldn't be going into college right now." After he graduates, he plans to start a youth leadership nonprofit with his mother to support young women who are going through the same kinds of struggles she did.