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Local Teen Trades Gangs For Family

Jose Ponce was in middle school when he was initiated into a gang. They made him feel like family. But one day street life started ripping him apart and he got out.
The City of Sanger is making strides with a gang prevention program known as Street Smarts.

CBS47’s Lemor Abrams is live with the story of a Sanger teen who traded the streets for family.

The City of Sanger is home to street gangs stretching back for generations.

“I was out on the streets, selling drugs, and doing stuff like that,” said Jose Ponce.

Jose Ponce was in middle school when he was initiated into a gang.

And they made him feel like family...

But one day street life started ripping him apart.

People really looked down on me. It really hurt but they were my motivation. They were my motivation to strive to do better.

The moment he imagined a new life...he found a community group...and went along on his first camping trip.

“I learned so many knew skills and my self esteem began to grow. I knew I could control the outcomes of my whole life,” he said.

He owes it his mentor Tammy Tucker.

She started a program at the boys and girls club that gives gang members a sense of belonging.

“It’s hard to get out of that lifestyle when everything is around you is promoting that,” said Tucker.

She was inspired by a young man named Johnny Renya.

Renya wanted out of gang life...when he was shot and killed in his own front yard in a random shooting.

Years later, Jose came in the picture.

“He's been a blessing to me because with Johnny...knowing that his passing was difficult...now we have kids we can start with again,” said Tucker.

The police chief is joining the effort to get to the kids before gangs get to them.

“I think it's an issue pretty significant to the police dept.; I think we're making an impact on kids and steering them away from the gang lifestyle,” said Police Chief Silver Rodriguez.

Jose says he physically fought his way out.

Today he works for the Boys and Girls club, and already won a youth of the year award.

“It all comes from the heart. If you really try...it's possible,” said Jose.

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