Garden Pathways Helps Youth Turn their Lives Around After Prison

Feb. 7, 2014 / By

Pictured above: Leonardo Diarte / Photo by Alfredo Camacho

Pictured above: Leonardo Diarte / Photo by Alfredo Camacho

By Alfredo Camacho for South Kern Sol

Ed. Note: In 2012 Californian voters approved Proposition 36, the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012, to address harsh sentences for “strikers” convicted of non-violent, non-serious crimes. Opponents of this proposition argued that dangerous criminals would be released as a result.  In this story three youth from Bakersfield, Calif. tell us how Garden Pathways, a non-profit organization based in Kern County, has helped them turn their lives around.

In front of his mentors at Garden Pathways, Leonardo Diarte, 22, rang a cowbell over the sound of cheers and applause. The bell-ringing is an announcement to his supporters of his accomplishment: Diarte has had steady employment for the last six months, making him a sort of alumnus of the Garden Pathways program, and is now ready to move into the next phase of his life.

For many, his goal to maintain employment might seem like a routine part of life, but for Diarte and others like him, life has been anything but routine. He’s one of millions of formerly incarcerated people struggling to overcome a lifetime of adversity and adjust to a life free of the turbulence that they have become accustomed to.

“My plan is to keep my job and move on up, get a house and stability for my family,” said Diarte, a husband and father of one.

Garden Pathways assists clients like Diarte in not just in filling out applications and résumés, but also with job placement through partnerships with local businesses. Through the program, Diarte was able to get a job as a welder’s apprentice.

But job placement isn’t the key to success for everyone. What really made the difference for Garden Pathways client Jacob Beltran, was how his teacher, Ms. Rodriguez, treated him.

Read more at South Kern Sol