Growing up on the gang-controlled streets of Santa Ana, California, Azahel saw his future in stark terms: join or die. His home life wasn't much better, facing an abusive mother who favored his brothers over her youngest son. Boys Town gave Azahel the support and confidence he needed to escape his situation and prepare him for a life of fulfillment. Today, Azahel is giving back, working on a career in law enforcement.
Watch Azahel's Story
This is Logan gang territory. I had a lot of time on the street here. I spent actually more time on the street than in my little apartment. If you go that way, that's a whole different gang over there. If you go that way, that's a whole different gang, and if you go that way, that's a whole different gang. As you can see, that's all surrounded by gangs.
I did know a couple of people that died down the street from where I originally was born. I remember they would talk a lot about drive bys. I remember there were a couple of beatings in the neighborhood.
She definitely picked favorites with my brothers versus me. She, like, would cuss me out, abuse me physically.
When I got to Boys Town on the first day, I definitely felt more free. I had slept through the night well knowing that I wasn't at a shelter. I was at more of a home environment. They, like, cured many of the problems I had inside. I would just keep it myself and I've built the emotions up. That made me really angry inside. It really took the dark side of the moon out. And so I am blessed that Boys Town was able to help me cope with those feelings.
I had to learn so much from Boys Town that I had grasped all that, and I started reflecting. Then, I started reacting on it to a point where I started getting involved with the community.
Boys Town took custody of me. They helped me make my transition. . . I think of God's intention for me to end up in Boys Town and I'm going to make the best out of that, and definitely get out and react on that and impact the community. Without Boys Town I would probably be dead. Leading to where I was, even though I wasn't as pressured to join the gang, eventually I would've broken and I would've joined one. Either that, or drugs would've killed me.
Without Boys Town I wouldn't be as healed as I am now. I wouldn't have big dreams, motivation, goals.
Boys Town gave me a heart. It did. I have so much respect for Boys Town staff valuing their time to invest it into kids' lives and change them.
I'll always be there for Boys Town because as much as they gave me, I want to give it back probably twice as much or three times as much.