It takes money, to save money

A young entrepreneur walks in the door and hears his name reverberate through the loudspeaker as he approaches some of the more successful entrepreneurs in the country. He has entered the “Shark Tank.” In the next 3 minutes, he will present an idea that has been brewing in his mind for years. Will the business leaders (the “sharks”) invest? The sharks are all very different from another. Yet behind their differences, they share a clear and unspoken maxim – it takes money, to make money.

Everyone who buys a home understands you have to invest to yield the benefits of growing equity. Students in every business school in the nation never question this foundational truth.

This unspoken truth has found its way into the social realm, investing in people and seeing a return on investment. A prime example of investing in people is found in the work of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. Thirty years ago, Father Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries, began investing in gang involved individuals by creating jobs that reduced violence, imprisonment and, most importantly, changed lives. Investing in people yields results in the now and eternally.

The numbers give us a clear picture of the cost of changing lives. The cost of incarceration in California is $81,000 per person per year. With an average sentence length of 3.2 years, that is total average cost of $259,200 per person incarcerated. Rise Up Industries has been investing in formerly incarcerated, previously gang involved individuals for years, preparing them for high paying jobs as machinists. The investment has returned a profit in changed lives with 100% of graduates finding jobs, and zero returning to prison or gang life. In the last few years Rise Up Industries has graduated 8 members into high paying jobs.  Statistically, 5 out of 8 (assuming a 68% recidivism rate) would have returned to incarceration without a successful reentry program. The cost to taxpayers would have been $259,200 x 5 people = $1,296,000. Rise Up Industries is a great investment, but it takes money to save money.

We are looking for investors.


– John Hughes, MSW. Development Director at Rise Up Industries.

John Wayne vs. Mother Teresa – Who wins?

There is a cultural smack down taking place between “The Duke” and Mother Teresa that is as real as concrete.

I grew up watching John Wayne on a black and white TV.  He epitomized the all-American hero who fought the bad guys, always won, and defined rugged individualism.  For decades John Wayne led the way against the enemies of America. In the 1960s at the height of the Vietnam War and the culture was divided between the “flower children” and the “military industrial complex” John Wayne starred in The Green Berets rallying the world to fight the evils of communism in Vietnam. Right and wrong, America vs. the world.

He was the cultural hero both on and off the screen.  His iconic image has influenced our culture to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, to work hard to make it on your own with the background music of Frank Sinatra singing, “I Did It My Way.”

But where does that lead us? It leads us to being self-reliant, trying to do it on our own, telling those who are struggling to “do more, try harder.”  Sadly, it leaves us standing alone.

In the other corner stands a short woman, frail, dressed in her habit, covered in a divine humility having lived a life in total dependency on God.  She lived among the poor, in the city of the poorest poor. She embraced those who were forgotten, cast aside and held the dying in her arms.

Statesmen, masters of industry, the elite of the world would seek her out as she would walk them among the hungry, sick and dying being grounded in their own humanity and challenged to follow her example.  Quietly with a voice that is understated she diagnosed the cultural battle and said, “We have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Her wisdom permeated our minds and most importantly our hearts and challenged us to live differently. Could it be real that we have a common humanity, that we are not alone, that we truly belong to each other?

 The smack down battle is real, it rages in our souls.  Daily, we make decisions how we will live, behave and teach our children.

At Rise Up Industries, we recognize that the center of gravity of a gang is membership. It’s belonging…that’s why we stand with Mother Teresa and have created – a place to belong.


– John Hughes, MSW. Development Director at Rise Up Industries.

At Rise Up Industries we already use eTAP to help our members continue education and obtain their GEDs. With the Coronavirus relegating so many students to learn from home, eTAP is now offering FREE use for all K-12 grades and subjects during school shut down. Our members have loved it, and we’re happy to recommend this free, intuitive and demonstrably effective educational tool. Check it out here: 

he San Diego County District Attorney (DA)’s Office is removing tattoos for people who are looking for a fresh start in life – and in their appearance.

The DA’s free laser tattoo removal program started a year ago and helps people remove unwanted tattoos that are gang or human trafficking-related.

“I paroled maybe 3 years ago. So, for the first 2 years, it was a struggle for me because I was no longer that gang member,” said Manuel Chavez, tattoo removal participant.

Manuel spent 22 years in prison and wanted to put the past behind him, but his gang tattoos made that new transition tough.

“I left that life in prison and I was given a fresh opportunity to be a man, a responsible man and I was working and I’m paying my bills. But, I was still stuck with those tattoos and just felt like it was a daily reminder of who I used to be, and if you didn’t know me that’s probably who you thought I was,” said Chavez.

Chavez heard about the DA’s tattoo removal program in December 2018 through the organization, Rise Up Industries.

He immediately signed up to get his four gang tattoos removed. Today, one is completely gone and his other three have been lightened.

“When I meet people, whether it’s at church or family members or new friends when we go out –it’s kind of refreshing and it makes me feel good to know that they don’t know who I am or who I was. They know who I am now that I share that with them but they don’t know who I was, unless I share that with them. It’s a total blessing to me. I’m so glad the District Attorney’s office reached out and presented this golden opportunity to Rise Up Industries,” said Chavez.

For the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, the idea for the tattoo removal program was sparked after the DA’s office talked to people released from custody. Many voiced similar concerns about their past tattoos.

“They were struggling with the reminders that the tattoos presented. They would be struggling whether it was physical, someone looking at them and instead of looking in their eyes, looking at their tattoos—while they were applying for a job or taking the bus, walking down the beach, just trying to move ahead,” said Shawnalyse Ochoa, Deputy DA, Assistant Division Chief of Juvenile Branch.

The program not only works to removes tattoos but also serves as a way for the DA’s office to connect with the participants through the series of treatments needed to remove the tattoos.

Big Night Out 2019

Dear Mr. Manny
I appreciate you sharing your story before and in prison. It means a lot, sharing things like that, I knew that because I was going down the same path and it was hard to talk about it. I felt like people didn’t understand me, so I fought a lot for no reason. When you shared your family was involved in gangs I related to you a lot growing up with a family which almost all your cousins bang it’s hard to go down the right path and do right because that’s all you know. But I learned I have to be the one to set the example for my little cousins, they are looking up to me so I’m not going to go down that same path – I’m going to create my own.
Lincoln HS Student

As the gang prevention program our members give back to the community speaking at schools and different organizations, specially with youth. here is a sample of a letter that Manny received from an student who was in speaking engagement days ago.

Seeing a fully tattooed person in a shady neighborhood can create all kinds of negative assumptions. Many of our members find the first step in leaving old life is recognizing that tattoos are unwelcome in the workplace.

It is a painful procedure that can take more than a year to remove if the tattoo is a large cover-up, or if it’s in color. Most importantly, the process is symbolic. “It’s like a rebirthing. People can’t keep them if they want to move forward with their lives.” 
“The biggest thing is betrayal, and that’s kind of a word not spoken. Some of these men feel as though they’re betraying their old way of life by coming in. And I think that that often undergirds the friction: ‘Well, don’t disrespect my homies, don’t disrespect where I came from.’ And internally, there’s a sense of betrayal when they wipe out a tattoo: ‘Am I giving up that old life or part of my history?’ I’ve had people say to me, ‘In my heart, I’ll always be part of my old neighborhood.’ It’s understandable. You struggle to go beyond it—these men, it’s their history. They want to let go of it, but they also feel as though they’re betraying it if they do, selling out the old person.”

“This program saved my life,” Larry said. “I always thought I’d be a statistic, either dead or in jail. They actually care; they ain’t just talk,” he said. “They help you out in so many ways: giving us a career, job, work ethics, whatever. I never met anybody who asked you, ‘What’s going on in your life?’ and actually try to help me change it.” Larry Vitello, current member at RUI .

Larry Vitello, current member at RUI.

John completed our 18-month program and became our third graduate on April 2nd of this year. We are pleased to report that John was hired by CIM. During his 18 months with Rise Up Industries, John has been very involved with giving back and assisting others.

Their volunteer work included:
* Serving at Father Joe’s Villages soup kitchen
* Speaking regularly with Justice Involved Youth at the Salvation Army on Thursday nights
*Speaking at monarch School
* Leading efforts to create a local Criminal and Gang Member Anonymous (CGA) program

Joe Tapia will complete his 18 month program and become our fourth graduate on May 2nd of this year. he had an early celebration.

Additionally, John Villa and Joe Tapia are both authors of the recently published book “Writing after Life”


We are grateful to Las Patronas for choosing Rise Up Industries as a 2019 Spring Minor Beneficiary grant recipient. The Las Patronas grant allows Rise Up Industries to purchase a TRAK K3 EMX Knee Mill for our machine shop.  This grant enables our Machine Shop to expand our training program for former gang-involved ex-offenders. Our Machine Shop job training plays an important role in helping our members compete for a well-paying job in the machining industry when they graduate from Rise Up Industries. We’re excited about the contribution our members are able to make to the San Diego community as they successfully transition away from gang activity.  The generosity of Las Patronas has provided significant help for enriching our job training program.

Thank you Las Patronas.