ConnectOC Blog

Meant to Make It

Posted by: Shelley Hoss on 11/10/2014

By Shelley Hoss

The ConnectOC Blog is a place for sharing insight, information and examples of how Orange County residents, donors and nonprofits are working to build a brighter, stronger, more vibrant community.  We welcome you to share your thoughts by commenting below.

Gabriel Sanchez is proof that every child deserves a chance to succeed in school and in life.

They said he wouldn’t make it. At 11, Gabriel Sanchez was already living on the streets. By 12, his attempts at survival had landed him in trouble with the law. By his 18th birthday, he would be incarcerated three times. 

Those statistics may describe Gabriel on paper, but they don’t come close to telling the story of a child faced with life-and-death decisions, when the hardest thing he should have been facing were his multiplication tables. 

With his mother in and out of prison, Gabriel’s aunt and uncle had taken him in as a young child. But instead of giving him a loving home, they gave him a rocky start rife with abuse and neglect. 

Gabriel recalls that he felt safer on the streets than at his own house: “I would find places that I thought were hidden so people wouldn’t find me sleeping there. I would steal food from the grocery store to eat.”

The streets ultimately took Gabriel in, introducing a way of life that would lead him to juvenile hall. 

Gabriel’s story could have ended there: an innocent child whose life circumstances became a downward spiral of despair and poor life choices, dooming him to a dismal and unproductive life. But a safety net appeared for Gabriel when he needed it most, and changed the course of his life for good. 

Once he entered the juvenile justice system, Gabriel became part of the Orange County Department of Education’s ACCESS

(Alternative, Community, and Correctional Schools and Services) program. ACCESS provides a second chance for nearly 17,000 Orange County students who might otherwise give up on their education altogether. For Gabriel, it was the key that unlocked his enormous potential. 

“School had always been an escape from reality for me — even the bare minimum I attended,” he said. “As a kid, I always loved academics. Math and U.S. history always intrigued me.”

Wanting to make sure he would stay on the straight and narrow even after he got his high school diploma, Gabriel’s ACCESS counselor introduced him to the Youth Development Programs, also known as YOW, operated by Community Service Programs (CSP). 

Hether Benjamin, CSP’s director of youth development programs, says YOW supplements the academics that ACCESS provides so students can complete other essential life tasks, like finding a place to live or getting vocational training to secure a stable job.

“YOW was a big help because they gave me hope for something better,” Gabriel said. “They saw the potential in me. No matter what, they said I was going to do something good with my life – that I was meant to make it.”

Together, ACCESS and YOW were game-changers for Gabriel. His ACCESS teachers and YOW counselors so motivated Gabriel that he graduated a year early, and found a job with a security company, where he quickly rose up the ranks to management. 

Once he had settled into his new life, Gabriel wanted to give back to the programs that had helped him forge his success. He called YOW to volunteer his time as a youth speaker. Instead, they offered him a job.

“I’m able to have a deeper impact on some of the youth who put up a fight because they think no one can relate to them,” he said. “So when I tell them I have walked in their shoes, they get more confident that they can do it, too.”

But Gabriel’s impact goes far beyond the youth he now works with.  He is a reminder to us all. “Be willing to give someone who seems like a lost cause a second chance,” he says. “They are worth putting the time and effort into.” 

If you’re interested in learning more about programs helping kids like Gabriel succeed in school and in life, visit


Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation. She can be reached at

We invite you to comment on the blog below or use the social media icons to share on your networks.


Post Your Comment
1000 characters left


Add Comment
Showing 1 - 25 of 725 Sort by
Bridal Shop in Singapore
Report | Reply
I think this is an enlightening post and it is exceptionally valuable and proficient. along these lines, I might want to thank you for the endeavors you have made in composing this article.
Create Ringtones Free
Report | Reply
I am extremely appreciated for this online journal. Its a useful subject. It help me all that much to tackle a few issues. Its chance are so phenomenal and working style so fast.
Situs Judi Online Terpercaya
Report | Reply
Thanks for sharing nice information with us. i like your post and all you share with us is uptodate and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you,
Situs Poker
Report | Reply
Wow i can say that this is another great article as expected of this blog.Bookmarked this site...
Computer gaming accessories
Report | Reply
This is my first time i visit here. I discovered such a large number of fascinating stuff in your web journal particularly its discourse. From the huge amounts of remarks on your articles, I figure I am not by any means the only one having all the satisfaction here! keep doing awesome
FIFA Coins for Sale
Report | Reply
The first step is to enter your email this is where we will send you your exclusive psn code.
domino 99
Report | Reply
I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. Unlike other blogs I have read which are really not that good.Thanks alot!
Putnam snow removal
Report | Reply
What a neat and precise article. The use of words is commendable.
Buy iTunes Card Online
Report | Reply
iTunes keep gift playing cards have a image or pattern (spray paint, silhouette, iTunes or App icons) at the front.
bola 88
Report | Reply
The creator has so delightfully enchanted the thought of group by this brilliant blog.
for rent by owner
Report | Reply
I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. Unlike other blogs I have read which are really not that good.Thanks alot!
Report | Reply
This is really an extraordinary read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am anticipating perusing new articles. Keep doing awesome!.
personal injury attorney new orleans
Report | Reply
Much obliged for offering pleasant data to us. i like your post and all you impart to us is uptodate and very instructive,
Report | Reply
Your thing is shows latent, m gona add this to my bookmarks.
Bus charter Italy
Report | Reply
I can't envision concentrating sufficiently long to research; considerably less compose this sort of article. You've beaten yourself with this material. This is awesome substance.
Social Media Cyprus
Report | Reply
Much obliged for offering pleasant data to us. i like your post and all you impart to us is uptodate and very instructive, i might want to bookmark the page so i can come here again to peruse you, as you have made a great showing.
magie voyance
Report | Reply
Totally awesome posting! Heaps of helpful data and motivation, both of which we all need!Relay welcome your work.
SMS in Nigeria
Report | Reply
Get bulk SMS in Nigeria @ 76kobo per unit of SMS & enjoy immediate delivery. We provide fastest,affordable & most reliable bulk SMS in Nigeria.
Nancy Rubin
Report | Reply
Acknowledging and appreciating the sacrifices and time they spend with you will surely give you a good attitude. It may also help to join a support group and get strength and inspiration from fellow people living with cancer.
UAT training courses
Report | Reply
Great article with excellent idea!Thank you for such a valuable article. I really appreciate for this great information..
bridesmaid robes
Report | Reply
This post has helped me for an article which I am writing. Thank you for giving me another point of view on this topic. Now I can easily complete my article. Cheers.bridesmaid robes
Cloud Investigation Software
Report | Reply
Great site, Distinguished criticism that I can handle. Im pushing ahead and may apply to my present place of employment as a pet sitter, which is exceptionally charming, yet I have to extra grow. Respects.
this link
Report | Reply
consequently, this isn't some thing that you will need to worry approximately if you buy this mattress. it's far exceedingly long lasting, and you will be in a position to utilize it for a long to return.
agen judi bola online indonesia
Report | Reply
This is a shrewd online journal. I would not joke about this. You have such a great amount of information about this issue, thus much energy. You likewise know how to make individuals rally behind it,
benistar reviews
Report | Reply
It should be noted that whilst ordering papers for sale at paper writing service, you can get unkind attitude. In case you feel that the bureau is trying to cheat you, don't buy term paper from it.
       1   2   3