Former gang member finds success, strength in politics

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A former gang member once lived a troubled life of crime and violence.

But he turned things around, and hopes his story of success can help others.

Aguayo’s story begins at 48th and Union in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood.

Growing up in a single parent home, his mother Rosy worked long hours to provide for her children. And like many others in his shoes, he turned to a gang for acceptance.

He earned a reputation as a trouble maker at Uno Garcia High School. But the school’s director Josephine Gomez saw something special in Aguayo and pushed him to turn his life around.

With Gomez’s guidance, Aguayo got involved with the Mikva Challenge, an organization that lets teenagers get involved in politics.

He was placed with a north side alderman to learn the ropes.

Aguayo's new interest in public service inspired him to get off the streets and leave the gang life. He was the victim of a brutal beating three years ago that allowed him to cut ties with the gang he joined when he was 13-years-old.

He underwent this violent ritual for a chance to start over.

Aguayo is now a student at Dominican University serving two years as the school’s student body president, something he never dreamed possible, and in such a short time.

He’s also an intern for State Representative Chris Welch.

And this ex- gang banger is now a dedicated advocate for peace and takes part in anti-violence rallies across the city.

This summer, Aguayo is coordinating the annual Hoops in the Hood program in the Back of the Yards neighborhood and then leaves for an internship in Washington D.C.

Next year, he hopes to go to law school.

Berto Aguayo is one of Chicago’s Very Own.


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1 Comment

  • Ron Campbell Jr.

    48th & Union is NOT Back of The Yards, it is Canaryville.
    Having said that, I applaud this young man!
    Walking away from your “family” (gang) is no easy task, especially knowing you face a severe beating.
    He’s no dummy, as politics is where the real power is…

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