by Tamalyn Gutierrez
Jonathan, a former affiliated student, showed up in my office on a recent Friday morning. I was headed to do an administrative task of some sort but welcomed the interruption. Jonathan told me that Julio, Andres, Arnoldo and he would be playing in a band contest that evening in the Central Park of Antigua.
Three of these guys are graduates of our program — two graduated in 2006 and one in 2007. Julio, though never affiliated with us, hung out in our youth programs from 7th to 10th grade because his friends were there and it was “safer” and “more fun” than what he could be doing on the street. All of these boys now have jobs or support their parents’ businesses and are able to make a living. They are all involved in community service and worthwhile activities.
I wished Jonathan luck and told him that I would try to make it to see them. As I left work that day, Julio showed up to invite me to the band contest that night, too. I wasn’t able to make it for a number of reasons, but I prayed that they would be confident and have fun, and I called them about two minutes before they went on stage to tell them I was rooting for them.
That same night, another graduate of our program, Wesly Rodriguez, was a co-host of a gala event at the Camino Real, one of the nicest hotels in the country. The gala was a fundraiser for Casa Senilia, a home for the elderly that Wesly has been instrumental in starting along with a group of his medical school buddies. I wrote Wesly and friends and let them know we are proud of them — they are giving back and they are being bold in the way they do it.
The next Wednesday, I was in my office when Jonathan, Julio and Arnoldo walked in. I asked how Friday night went and they said, “Well, so bad that we got this.” They pulled a certificate out of a backpack and handed it to me — it was the first place prize. At the contest, the boys played their signature song, Step by Step. This song is meant to inspire other young people, and it was written in Common Hope’s youth room at the Antigua site where the boys used to hang out. The song describes the surrounding mountains visible from the windows and says that achieving their dreams is a step by step process, but they can make it and so can others.
I didn’t get to see Wesly, Jonathan, Arnoldo, or Julio in action that night, but they have all contacted me to share their success. They don’t have to do that, but it is an inspiration, and we all need that some times.
Stay tuned for the second part of Tamalyn’s eventful week.