Sunday, July 17, 2011

Becoming a father

The following is written by one of our Homeboys, Armando, who is an assistant to the development department and facilitator of the "becoming fathers" class. A word of caution: some strong language and heavy content.

My name is Armando Ruiz. Like most homeboys I come from a dysfunctional family. My mother was a drug lover and my dad died when I was 6 years old from an overdose. I have 4 sister & 3 brothers. I’m the oldest son outta 8. When I was 7 years old we where taken away from my mom because she had a substance abuse problem. In that first year of foster care my siblings and I went to 8 foster homes. After that year we landed in my last foster home.

I was raised different than people think a kid should be raised. At the age of 8 I was told to stand in front of the Bronx Zoo and sell one dollar balloons. I worked an 8-10 hour day for the most part $25 a day. Life for me was different. I was also called names for my skin color. Im a brown boy living in a white house. They called me black monkey. I was raised feeling like shit because I was not white like the family in the house.

I ran away from that house many times during my teen years. I thought I could raise myself. Unfortunately I was too young in the eyes of the state. (New York State). Life during these years was hard for me. Everyday I was told to fight for the family, the same family which called me racial slurs. I was filled with so much anger I saw each fight as a chance to gain the family’s love and approval, which never happened.

During my high school years I hated the world. I was in a gang in school. I felt if the house would not love me, so the hood, homies would respect me and fear me. I always saw drug money as my way out of the hood. However that’s not what happened. The house told me I had to work for my money. They did not want to buy me any clothes. So I became a drug dealer to buy things I needed.

Life was unlike what I thought it should be. Life was not something that I enjoyed. It was something I thought god gave us to discipline us. During the few years after high school I became a drug user and alcoholic. I could not go one day without a substance in my body. Life was not fun. It was pain.

Two years I got hit by a car. I was put into a coma for a month and now have metal in my leg from my knee to a few inches above my ankle. I got hit during one of my drunken nights out. During my stay in the hospital I cried and wept for what my life have become. I asked god to help me and to grant me a kid. I told him I need a kid and I would be different than my parents. One year later I was blessed with a son, who I named Elijah Armando Ruiz.

Homeboy Industries is helping me become the father I want to become. I started working at Homeboy when my son was one month old. During that time I felt the need for a job and was in a tight spot. I thought about gang banging and dealing drugs but I would remember that night I cried in the hospital and asked god for my son.

I want my son to never go through what I when through in life. I want my son to become whatever he wants to become. I do want him to become a college grad. I want his work history to start after college, not during his elementary school years. I want him to know that his dad loves him no matter what color he is. I will always love him. I want so much for my son. I want my son simply to be happy, drug and alcohol free.classes I enrolled in at Homeboy was Baby & Me. I felt I needed the class to help me learn how to handle a kid. I then enrolled in the parenting class, simply because it was a parenting class. I did not have a parent to teach me how to do so. The classes here have helped me become a father on the path to becoming an important part of his kids life.

Armando and his son, Elijah

Now through Homeboy I teach a class called Becoming Fathers. The reason I started this class is because I saw a need for a class which will help homies like me who want to change from being just a baby daddy to a real father. I'm not saying I know it all. I feel it is hard for me (a person that really wants to change) and maybe its harder for other homies. I feel I can help other homies make that change in their life. Most homies come from fatherless homes and they don’t want their home to be like that. Fatherless kids find support in the streets doing unlawful things.

Homeboy Industries has helped me more then I can say. I don’t know what else to say. Thank you Father G (G DOGG) and Homeboy Industries.


  1. Thank you Armando for not only putting your heart and soul into this piece, but also into your family and inspiring a foundation for other families as well.

    One love

  2. Thank you Armando for not giving up... You're an inspiration.

  3. You are an inspiration to all of us who work at Homeboy, Armando. It is a blessing to have seen you grow into the man and father you were always meant to be. Keep up all your good work and remember to smile often and laugh even more.

  4. ARMANDO: You are an inspiration to all dads out there in the barrios and beyond. I can tell you that it is not easy to change. I see on a daily in my barrio the lack of involvement of the baby daddys and some older fathers who just don't give a damn or know how to be that role model. My hats off to you Armando for putting your story out there. God bless you and I wish you continued success.

  5. Armando,
    What an inspiration you must be at Homeboy. Keep up your hard work and loving your son, willing to make a difference in his life he will know what a wonderful Father he has!!! You and Elijah are blessed...

  6. Armando:Every day is a Blessing and you are a Blessing and i thank God for the miracles he does.Thanks for helping other fathers open there eyes to be part of there little angels lives.this story brought tears of joy maken me wish my father was in my life but he is not.ima girl that had it rough but i surviving.God bless youand thanks again:)

  7. Congratulations Armando for taking on the very delicate and important roll of being an involved father. I am sure that your involvement at homeboy and in your sons life will benefit you & your son & everyone around you.

    Just like you homie, I also grew up in the hood and in a dysfunctional environment. Although I had both my parents I never wanted to be home because they were always fighting. I turned to banging and using drugs and alcohol to fill that void. Then at 16 I became a father. During that time I had many of my homies killed and many others ended up in the system with sentences ensuring that they would never get out. At that time I knew that if I didn't change I would end up like my homies and that my son would grow up a bastard. So from that point on I focused all my energy on my son and in self improvement.

    Today I am proud to say that I have left my old ways, graduated from college and I am now living a middle class life style where I am able to give my son everything that he needs and the opportunity to help him become whatever he wants in life. My hopes are that living a life knowing where I am proud of what I do and in the choices I make and treating people the way I would like to be treated will serve as an example to others. Si se puede!

  8. Wow! What an inspiration you are, Armando! God has his hand on you and your son! Bless you both!

  9. Armando, thank you for bearing your soul and sharing with us. You are a strong man, a good daddy, an inspiration and a reminder that it is never to late to be the person you want to be and create the life you were meant to live. God bless you!


  11. I don't know you personally, but I'm very proud of you Armando.

  12. Dear Armando,
    I came here after reading Father Greg’s book, Tattoos on the Heart. Your story touched me. It was so sad to read about the terrible way you were treated by your foster parents. That. Was. Wrong. I have wanted to be a foster parent for a very long time now and when I am able to do it I will think of you, and the kind of happy loving home I wish someone else could have given you. But this is not a sad story, this is a triumphant story! Good for you for finding the strength to better yourself, despite your painful beginnings, and build a stable and happy life for not only yourself but your child. I will be adding you, your classes and your child to my prayer list.
    Love from a woman from North Dakota who is rooting for your success and joy!! Holly Jessen

  13. Thank You All for your support. May god bless all

  14. What an inspiring story - good for you Armando. It sounds like you are already giving your son a wonderful life. May you have many years of happiness watching him grow and flourish.

  15. Thank you, Armando. My dad left when I was 1 and I was angry about it most of my life. We need more fathers like you to break that cycle.

  16. You are a good role model to all the homies out there who think that gangs and hustling is their only choice or grew up hard and don't want to follow in their parents footsteps... we need more people like you, who never gave up no matter how hard life got! God bless:)

  17. Armando, as a teacher in the Bronx, NY for 15 years, I must commend you on a job well done. If I lived in LA, I would no doubt volunteer my time at Homeboy. Keep up the great work and best of luck to you and your family!

  18. From one Teen Father to another, keep on keepin on.

  19. WAKe Up 2 Peace HomeBoy Armando Congrat'$ on tha Lil'HomeBoy
    Keep Up tha Great WorK & when Be,Ce Year i have 1Dolla 4 You or
    New Lil'HomeBoy