Back in 2013, Julio was a young man who was incarcerated at Camp Gonzalez, a now-closed juvenile-detention facility for minors.
Before his incarceration, Julio was living in South Central LA, experiencing a childhood filled with violence and drug addiction. As a child, Julio’s father went to jail and was gone for most of his childhood and teen years. His mother, a young, single parent without support, had no choice but to give her troubled son up to the court system. In foster care for just a short time, Julio soon found himself behind bars. From incarceration to being released to becoming homeless and then re-incarcerated again, it was clear Julio was on a destructive path.
this is where we stepped in
Through education, mentorship, and enrichment, the dedicated Teaching Artists and program staff helped Julio envision and implement a future not defined by his past.
Through our program, Julio got to learn about story development, staging, and performance. Most importantly, he got to witness the transformation of the group, incarcerated young men, like himself. As Julio tells it:
“At the beginning everyone seemed to be closed minded, in the shadows, and uncomfortable. As we moved through the process we started to be ourselves, young and open to new ideas. I learned about exercises and tactics that help you get into a comfortable place and let go of shyness.I’m so glad that after a childhood of struggles, I met The Unusual Suspects who filled a void and showed me the power of art.”
Today, Julio is a student at West Los Angeles College pursuing a degree in Cinematic Arts with a minor in English. He is a Creative Operations intern at NBC Universal. He is a mentor and advocate for both Journey House’s Beyond Foster Care campaign, volunteering his time to legislate successfully for aged-out, emancipated youth, and with AntiRecidivism Coalition to help reduce the recidivism rate and educate politicians and stakeholders on criminal reform best practices. He also sits on the advisory council for InsideOut Writers, a nonprofit that uses creative writing to provide a continuum of care to youth impacted by the criminal-justice system and mentors formerly-incarcerated youth as they transition back to school via the Coalition for Engaged Education.
And, what’s more? The road that Julio took has led him back home, literally and figuratively. He is once again living with his mom, and The Unusual Suspects is so happy to have Julio with us again, now as an invaluable member of our Board of Directors.
Who is Julio?
Julio is representative of all the students, incarcerated youth, and families we serve – kids, parents, and community members who with your helpcan receive the opportunities and support they need to succeed.
Give to The Unusual Suspects today and help underserved youth get on the path to empowerment so they may – like Julio and the thousands of alums we have served – create new storylines for their lives,
now and in the future.
We value you – and your contribution – and that is why we have earned a
Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.
“I learned that if there is one thing that can connect all humanity no matter the color of the skin, class or background, it will be through arts. My passion and my beliefs would not be where they are today without the Unusual Suspect Theater Company and their amazing program.” – Julio Quijada