You could say that Sanchez is working on a return to his roots, not here in Chicago, but in the remote lands of Mississippi. Sanchez was raised there by his grandparents, even though he was born in Chicago, and he’s working on living the values they instilled in him.
“I was brought up the right way. A man should work, and provide for his family.”
Sanchez lived a simple, honest life in Mississippi. He did well in school, and was well attended-to by his grandparents since there weren’t a lot of other kids of his age around.
Every summer, Sanchez would come back to Chicago to stay with his mother and sister. As a single working parent, she didn’t have a lot of time to take care of two children, and his father was constantly on the road working for a trucking company.
During the summer of 1986, when Sanchez was staying in Chicago and about to go back to Mississippi for school, his grandfather passed away. Going back to Mississippi to the life he knew just wasn’t feasible anymore. So, he stayed in Chicago, and almost immediately got involved in gangs, and bounced around from one high school to the next.
Sanchez calls this period of time his “negative education”. He knew what he was learning and doing on the streets was wrong, but he did what he had to do to survive. Of course, this life led to the wrong activities, and he served several prison sentences because of it.
The last time he was in prison, he made a conscious decision that this was not the life he would live any longer. He was released in March of last year, and took advantage of the opportunity to turn his life around. He couldn’t stop thinking that this wasn’t the life his grandparents wanted him to live.
He met Anna, one of Inspiration Corporation’s Case Managers, at a graduation ceremony for ex-felons reentering into society. She told him about Inspiration Corporation’s programs, and he was immediately interested. Even in prison, Sanchez found many ways to educate himself, whether it was taking parenting classes (he has three grown daughters with whom he is much closer now) or mentoring recovering addicts. So, a four week Employment Preparation Training workshop seemed just the right fit for him.
Sanchez now works a maintenance position at Inspiration Kitchens – Garfield Park. With the help of his Case Manager, he’d like to get his CADC (Certified Alcohol & Drug Abuse) Certification. He’s also been a licensed butcher for more than twenty years, so he knows there are probably job opportunities out there, even for an ex-felon.
“There’s a core belief system on the street that there’s only one way to live. I want to get the message out to people on the streets, that there is another way out.”
While Sanchez works to re-build the foundation to his own life, he hopes to someday help other people as well.
“Your life isn’t defined by you being an addict. You’ve just stumbled, someone can pick you up and show you the way.”