By Kenia Miranda Verdugo
Each year, Homeboy Industries brings together hundreds of individuals in the Los Angeles area for Lo Máximo, a celebration of hope, kinship, and compassion. Homeboy Industries, the largest gang rehabilitation and reentry program in the world, helps formerly incarcerated Angelenos build their lives post-incarceration. On an annual basis, the greater Los Angeles community comes together to learn more about Homeboy Industries’ work, honor influential members in the community, and lay the foundation for Homeboy Industries’ continued efforts.
On April 29th, Lo Máximo honored four key members of the community: Sergio Basterrechea, Jocelyn Esparza, Dr. Robert K. Ross, and Lisa Ling. We are pleased to share their stories below:
Homeboy Hero, Sergio Basterrechea, Operations Director of God’s Pantry
Basterrechea grew up in the vibrant and culturally rich streets of Boyle Heights, a neighborhood in East Los Angeles. He came to Homeboy when he was 15 years old and his earliest memories are working and sweeping up along 1st Street near the offices. Despite facing the many challenges of his youth, Basterrechea is now dedicated to his healing and making a positive impact on the world around him. With his passion for the common good he began working at God’s Pantry, a non-profit organization working to help reach marginalized individuals by providing them with a second chance at life. Basterrechea has been instrumental in developing services and programs to support the community’s needs. Basterrechea’s work has allowed him to make a positive impact on countless lives of at-risk youth, gang-affiliated and formerly incarcerated people, and has also given him a deep sense of purpose and fulfillment.
Homegirl Hero, Jocelyn Esparza, Student
Jocelyn Esparza came to Homeboy Industries when she was 16 years old. What started for her as court mandated appointments for tattoo removal has turned into a much-valued relationship with the organization. While at Homeboy, Esparza worked at Homegirl Café, at the reception desk and with tattoo removal services. Esparza has worked for several small businesses and has been a legal assistant. She is currently working towards a degree and certification in drug counseling. After she completes the program and graduates, she will work with those who are on the substance use disorder spectrum at an addiction treatment agency.
Community Award, Dr. Robert K. Ross, President and CEO of the California Endowment
Robert K. Ross, M.D., is President and Chief Executive Officer for The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation, supporting underserved communities and promoting a healthier California and a healthier America. Dr. Ross has an extensive background in health philanthropy, including advocacy and funding support to strengthen diversity in the health workforce, improve health advocacy for young people of color, and provide leadership for health-oriented criminal justice reform and care-first solutions. He has turned to Homeboy Industries as a model in this work and has been a longtime friend and partner. Dr. Ross recently served as Chair of the Los Angeles County Task Force on Alternatives to Incarceration, developing a strategic roadmap for the county to reform the criminal justice system in support of health-focused strategies to reduce incarceration
Kinship Award, Lisa Ling, journalist, author, and television personality
Lisa Ling is a world-renowned journalist, television presenter, and author. She is an immersive journalist, bringing stories and an awareness about little-known issues, people, and communities. Lisa is at heart a storyteller and deeply connects to the issues she covers and the private lives and spaces she has accessed throughout her career. Whether it has been coverage of the mental health crisis, interracial marriage, alcoholism and heroin addiction, or incarcerated fathers, she listens and learns about people who have been marginalized and shares their stories with us. She is a voice for social justice, prison reform, restorative programming and organizations, and the AAPI community.
To conclude the celebration, Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, shared some stories of his work with the homies. He expressed how one of the goals of the organization was to go “from the Department of Corrections to the department of connections” and how we are all just looking for a sense of belonging. Luckily, Homeboy Industries has been that home for many homeboys and homegirls.
Michelson 20MM’s Miguel Leon (left) and Kenia Miranda Verdugo (right) with Father Greg Boyle (center)
With a theme of “there is no us and them, only us,” the evening was truly inspirational. Michelson 20MM was a proud sponsor of this profound event and we look forward to continuing the work in support of those impacted by the criminal justice system. As Father Boyle said, let us remember that every person we encounter today is fighting a silent battle of their own and kindness certainly goes a long way. To learn more about Homeboy Industries, visit homeboyindustries.org.
Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation seeking to accelerate progress towards a more just world through grantmaking, operating programs, and impact investing. Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.
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