Turnaround opens ‘new chapter’ for youth

Javier Renteria is the epitome of redemption. After getting kicked out of San Benito High, then Santa Ana Continuation School—both for truancy—Renteria had a decision to make. He could start turning his life around or continue on a path that would’ve surely ended badly.

Renteria chose the former option. His hard work has paid off, as he’ll be the recipient of the Youth Change Maker award at the Change Makers Award Dinner at Casa Maria in San Juan Bautista on Saturday. When the 17-year-old Renteria found out he had won the award several weeks ago, he said he was floored.

“I was shocked,” said Renteria, a San Benito High senior who has earned his way back at the school after getting kicked out in January of his freshman year. “I didn’t know I was up for the award. This is like opening a new chapter in my life.”

Renteria plans to stay on a positive path from his previous life, one that saw him continually in an angered state.

“I thought I’d end up in prison or be dead by 18,” he said.

The turning point came during his junior year, after he talked with an academic counselor at Pinnacles Community School, which he attended through his junior year.

“It was a wake-up call when I got my grade check,” he said. “I knew right then I eventually had to grow up.”

Renteria got signed up with one of the case managers at the Youth Alliance, which got him started on the right path. In the last two years, Renteria has completed 100 hours of community service, served as an after-school mentor at Maze Middle School and has actively participated in the LULAC program.

“Javier inspires us all to believe in the power of youth, the power of transformation and the power of possibilities,” said Diane Ortiz, who is the executive director of the Youth Alliance. “Javier has been an exemplary role model, a leader and someone who has stood out for his transformative nature.”

Renteria credits his mom, Nellie Perez, and three people at the Youth Alliance for helping him turn his life around: counselor Eliana Delgadillo and case managers Jason Franks and Lillian Silva. Franks said Renteria has become such a positive influence that the Youth Alliance is looking to bring him in as a peer advocate.

“We’re open to Javi doing outreach, where it’ll be Javi, another student and myself to fight for students’ rights,” Franks said. “There’s a lot on the horizon for Javi.”

For more information or to purchase tickets for the Youth Change Maker Awards Dinner, go to youthall.org or call 831 636-2853.

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