Leonardo is available to speak to at-risk youth on a variety of topics.
Leonardo delivers a powerful message about the dangers and risks of associating with gangs and gang members. He details the lies and deceptive practices that are used to influence kids to follow in the lifestyle. Leonardo shares his experiences as a gang member and all of the sacrifices he made by being in a gang. He shares how the only end result will not be good.
Leonardo experienced drug addiction and share his story in a powerful way to emphasize the deadly path drug addiction can take. He will share the dangers of drug dealing and the addictive nature of drugs and the drug lifestyle.
Leonardo offers solutions that are realistic. Anyone from any background or past can come out of it successfully if they choose to act before it’s too late. Leonardo shares his path and his road to success. He offers hope to those who think there is none.
Background and mission statement
Word in the hood was 10 years in the making. We started out doing prison ministries in 2006 and began mentoring at-risk youth in 2008. Finally, we established Word In The Hood as a nonprofit in 2016 to help young kids navigate the struggles of the gang and drug life. Currently, Leonardo has been working with 85 schools in 6 counties in the North Georgia and East Tennessee area He has also worked with Law Enforcement and School in Illinois. During this time Leonardo has been able to help change the lives of many at-risk youths. Word In The Hood has developed a comprehensive strategy to help the at-risk youth find greater meaning in life.
Word in the Hood’s program incorporates Leonardo’s real-life experience and “Keep It Real” approach to conveying his earnestness. Leonardo’s story of hardship that turned into success offers an alternative narrative that illustrates how better choices in life can foster success. Word In The Hood’s message connects with kids because Leonardo grew up in the inner city and saw first hand the destruction that poverty, drugs, and gangs can cause. He is able to relate to the feelings of hopelessness that kind of environment creates. Word in the Hood’s model is that Poverty, Drugs, and Gangs don’t have power over us when we have a community behind us. Together we can overcome any circumstances. Leonardo’s method of mentoring candidates of Word In The Hood involves 4 phases:
Phase 1 (Building Trust)
Create a relationship with the youth by listening and sharing. Word In the Hood’s model is to keep visits consistent which begins to establish a safe space to open up. The student begins to rely on the time spent with an adult with whom they can relate and who can help them navigate the deep waters of the gang and drug life.
Phase 2 (Strategy)
Uncover the reasons that the youth resorted to gangs. At this time, it is important to help the student develop a more positive community around them. This makes it much easier for the student to begin to separate themselves from the negative lifestyle. The point is to create organic distance from the negative lifestyle slowly until that lifestyle is no longer a priority.
Phase 3 (Community Support)
Meet with the School or family to gain scholastic sponsors as part of their new community and support system. This will be critical to developing checks and balances. Accountability is important for the youth, but it must be held in a very positive way. The sponsor will need to communicate with Leonardo to ensure they can help build a system of accountability that will act as a scaffold of expectations and guidelines for the youth to build on.
Phase 4 (Martial Arts)
Provide the youth with a new outlet for life’s frustrations. Word in the Hood strongly encourages Martial Arts because it teaches self-confidence, discipline, individual achievement, control, and self-defense. These skills will ultimately help the student gain clarity in life. Furthermore, keeping them active, learning and physically tired will keep them off the streets.
Through this process, Leonardo is able to help foster change in the child’s life.