Partnering to meet the need and expand capacity
Christy Stillwell Christy Stillwell comes from a background of gang violence, substance abuse, incarceration, young motherhood and domestic violence. Lost, confused and feeling betrayed she enrolled in a women’s outpatient drug and alcohol program. It was there she came to understand she was a victim of domestic violence and a drug addict. After completing the program and continuing some years of aftercare, she was encouraged to spread her wings and fly. She landed at Homeboy Industries 8 years ago where she worked in the Homegirl Cafe for a year. As her case manager learned her story, realizing she was a passionate advocate for victims of domestic violence, she offered Ms. Stillwell the opportunity to attend a DV training which would certify her to facilitate groups. At the time Ms. Stillwell did not realize the training was to work with batterers, so she had to think deeply about that, ultimately recognizing that working with batterers is a powerful way to support victims, by helping them learn about their triggers, motivations and past traumas that may cause their behaviors. Currently, Ms. Stillwell manages the domestic violence program and facilitates court-mandated classes at Homeboy Industries. She is a Certified Domestic Violence Facilitator and Certified Anger Management Facilitator. She is also the liaison to Peace Over Violence and supports women in their healing and in following their dreams. Her specialty is working with gang-members and those seeking recovery.
Marissa Gillette Marissa Gillette was born and raised in Los Angeles and has been with Homeboy Industries since 2010, serving as Director of Educational Services since 2014. Ms. Gillette and her staff are responsible for the overall design, development, implementation, and evaluation of the organization’s curriculum, serving almost 300 trainees and community clients each month with a comprehensive selection of about 50 weekly classes, including court/DCFS-mandated and Probation-approved classes. In addition to managing the day to day operations of the department, including student services, educational outcomes, mentorship of trainees, and oversight of dozens of volunteer teachers, tutors and class facilitators, Ms. Gillette and her staff collaborate with local community organizations and educational institutions which complement and strengthen Homeboy’s mission of supporting the goals of men and women redirecting their lives. Ms. Gillette was born and raised in Los Angeles, graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a BA in Cultural Anthropology, emphasis in Social Documentation.
Virginia Garcia Virginia Garcia is a Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and Gender Based Violence Program Manager at Peace Over Violence, a community-based nonprofit dedicated to building healthy relationships, families and communities free from sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence. In this capacity, she manages POV’s PREA Program working in collaboration with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department responding to and addressing concerns related to sexual violence that impact inmates currently detained in the Century Regional Detention Facility, Men’s Central Jail, Twin Towers, and the Inmate Reception Center for the county of Los Angeles. She also manages the advocacy component for POV with the Family Justice Center, working in collaboration with the City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office, LAPD, the City’s Victim’s Bureau, The Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Domestic Violence Project, and other sister agencies whose focus is to end gender based violence. She previously volunteered at POV as a hotline counselor for the Los Angeles Rape and Battering Hotline. Additionally, Virginia works with Aimee Berrios to co-facilitate the weekly Women Over Violence group at Homeboy Industries which helps educate and empower survivors of domestic violence. Prior to POV, Virginia worked with high school students at El Rancho High School as a substance abuse counselor. She was also a support technician at Cri-Help Socorro working closely with individuals who struggle with substance use and who have been impacted by homelessness, human trafficking, incarceration or the judicial system, and DCFS. Virginia received an Associate of Arts Degree in Paralegal Studies and a Legal Assistance Certificate from the Computer Education Institute in 2007. She also received a Chemical Dependency Certificate from East Los Angeles College in 2012. She is a survivor of intimate partner violence but more importantly the proud mother of three children.
Aimee Berrios Aimee Berrios is a Domestic Violence Specialist at Peace Over Violence, a community-based nonprofit dedicated to building healthy relationships, families and communities free from sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence. Aimee started at POV in 2015 as an Emergency Response Coordinator and Case Manager where she provided 24-hr emergency response at hospitals and police stations to survivors of sexual and domestic violence. She advocated for survivors with law enforcement, social workers and judges, and assessed survivors’ needs and provided resources, referrals, and crisis intervention as necessary. In 2018 she became a Domestic Violence Specialist, where she now works with LAPD to provide support for survivors including help with restraining orders, finding shelter placement, and offering crisis intervention. Aimee co-facilitates a weekly domestic violence group for women at Homeboy Industries with her colleague Virginia Garcia. Aimee has an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts from East Los Angeles College and is working on a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management at the University of Phoenix. She is a survivor of intimate partner violence and a proud mother of three beautiful adult children, and a precious granddaughter.
Jason Manuel Jason Manuel was born in South Central, Los Angeles in April 1980. He shared his mother’s addiction since birth. At the age of 12, he was incarcerated for the first time for 13 months in Central Stillmore Juvenile Detention Camp. After incarceration, his grandmother adopted him to save him from entering the system. With no fatherly presence, raised solely by women, he grew up to be a very sensitive person. Without a father, Jason turned to the street life searching for a feeling of belonging. He looked up to the men in his gang as big brother and fatherly figures. He believed that they had his best interests at heart when, on later reflection, he realized that they did not. With his gang, he began to smoke marijuana and drink alcohol at the young age of 12. This caused him to start smoking PCP at the age of 14. At the age of 22, still smoking PCP, Jason was sentenced to 15 years in prison. While spending time in prison, he encountered Homeboy Industries watching documentaries. When he got out prison he came to Homeboy Industries in 2017, but was surprised by the predominantly hispanic population at Homeboy. As he states, his twisted prison mentality taught him that if someone is not black, he is his enemy. It took him time to understand that the people at Homeboy were in fact his brothers. At Homeboy, Jason took classes to help himself and teach him what it means to be a man, including anger management, men’s group, parenting, and GED classes. Five to ten years from now Jason hopes to be a great motivational speaker and give back to youth. At Homeboy he works security full-time, and has been able to visit Youth Authority and Juvenile Hall through the front door, an experience that he never could have imagined.
Arique Franco Arique was born in April of 1984 in Long Beach, CA. He lived with both of his parents until about the age of 8, growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father. Around the age of 10, his mother took Arique and his siblings away from his father. This was the last time that he was able to see his father. Due to the lack of parental guidance being raised by a single working mom, Arique became gang-affiliated at the age of ten. Gang violence seemed normal to him; most of his family members involved in gang life. At the age of eleven, he spent a few days in juvenile detention center for the first time at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall. Right after his release, he was sentenced to 90 days in juvenile hall for a crime he committed while on probation. While in custody, he would often get into fights and began being sent into solitary confinement at the age of 12. Outside of incarceration, he would bounce around from school to school, often getting expelled. He was in and out juvenile detention center from the age of 11 until 18. At the age of 15, Arique was taken away from his mom by the Long Beach Gang Unit. At the age of 15, he had his first daughter. He ended up running away from Optimist Placement Home to be with his daughter. He began to hide from the cops and run away from his parole officer. He later got caught for another crime and spent three and a half years in prison. He would return to prison often for different violations. He was in and out of prison until he decided to change his life. Eventually Arique became tired of the gang lifestyle. He would sit in his cell and reflect on wanting something more in life. He is now working at Homeboy on a GED to have “open door” opportunities, getting tattoos off of his face, learning new things in classes, along with working in the cafe. In 5 years he sees himself staying focused and working a full-time job, potentially construction or art design.
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Workshops Session IV
When you’re just starting out or have a small team, how do you build capacity to expand the reach of your services? Homeboy’s Education team will discuss the partnerships that exist, those that help to offer a wider breadth of programming to fulfill the need and to better serve our community. We will highlight some key collaborations with other organizations whose expertise complements our own, allowing us to create distinct programming tailored to our population, train our credible messengers and provide culturally competent facilitation and guidance throughout the classes in our curriculum.