Participant, Young Men Program, Boston
“I’m good at talking to people,” says Eli. “I don’t care what race you are, I love to talk and converse.” When you sit down with him, you can immediately tell that he’s the type of person who loves to talk when given the chance. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. “Usually at first I’m standoffish,” he says. “I don’t wanna show people too much, but once I warm up I love to get to know people and for them to get to know me.”
And this is exactly how Roca started for Eli. “At first I wasn’t open with Adrian and Kevin. I was cautious. I said some rude things and Kevin shot right back at me. That’s when I realized we were cool and I began to feel comfortable.” Slowly over time, Kevin and Adrian showed Eli that he could trust them.
But trust is hard for Eli; he’s open about that. “My father left 7 years ago and told my mom some real disrespectful stuff, like that he didn’t want us. He abandoned us and you just don’t do that to your kids.” Growing up in Dorchester with little support, he started dealing drugs at a young age, hanging around the wrong crowd, and “got stuck”, as he puts it, in living one way. Right when he met Kevin and Adrian, Eli was on trial for distribution charges.
So Eli started with CBT and HiSet classes and soon enough he started working on a Roca crew. “I love working on crew,” he told us. “Landscaping, construction, anything that has to do with my hands I love it.”
But even at Roca, accomplishing his goals didn’t come easy. At one point, Eli had a baby and wanted to spend time with his new daughter and her mother. Little by little, he stopped coming. No working on crews, no taking classes. He was done with Roca.
And Kevin? He kept reaching out to him until something clicked. “I knew I couldn’t live like that anymore. You have a kid and you have to make sacrifices. As long as my daughter and her mother are good I’m fine with it. I keep working.”
And little by little, Eli has come back to Roca and is applying to outside jobs, focusing on completing his HiSet, and even trying to inspire other younger guys to make positive decisions early. “I’m trying to help these kids go in a different direction,” he says. “I try to get them to see another way.”
“I knew I couldn’t live like that anymore. You have a kid and you have to make sacrifices. As long as my daughter and her mother are good I’m fine with it. I keep working.”