Ex-gangmember hopes book will steer kids away from violence - FOX 32 News Chicago

Ex-gangmember hopes book will steer kids away from violence

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A Cicero man said that the solution to Chicago’s violence is as simple as reading a book he wrote, and he's giving it away for free.

The author takes a creative approach to teach young people the tools for success.

“You have to give these kids something. You can’t just tell them to put the guns down. I appreciate the message but that’s not solving the problem. You have to feed their mind, right, so that’s what we’re doing with the book,” said Robert Renteria, a former gang member turned author.

Renteria said that he’s frustrated by the violence playing out across Chicago.

Instead of complaining, the 53-year-old is on a push to get his book 'From The Barrio to the Boardroom' in every classroom citywide.

“I dropped out of school, I sold drugs, I was running and gunning, stealing and dealing, until I finally decided to make better life choices and join the military,” said Renteria in an interview with FOX 32’s Tisha Lewis.

The word “barrio” means neighborhood in Spanish, and the book is based on Renteria’s personal experiences using comic book style pictures and speech balloons to convey a powerful and positive message.

“Gang banging is not a lifestyle but a death style and that the secrets to success are hard work, determination and education and that there’s always a way to ask for help, not because you’re weak but because you have to remain strong,” said Renteria.

The east Los Angeles native moved to Chicago as a young adult. Now, he’s giving his book away for free in many of the city’s most crime-ridden communities.

Two weeks ago, volunteers were handing it out at the peace march outside Saint Sabina Church.

“Let’s provide a tool, something that will resonate with these kids to turn their lives around,” said Renteria.

We showed Renteria’s roadmap to overcoming gang violence and poverty to some parents, including Lawndale resident Jessica Munoz, the mother of two boys - ages 7 and 11.

“I don’t think it’s bad for them to learn about it so they can know what’s outside and what to look for,” said Munoz.

“I do think books can help if you stay focused enough to read to your child,” said Ramona Sandifer, a Lawndale resident.

“Rather than just talking the talk it was time to walk the walk because that’s what leaders do,” said Renteria.

FOX 32’s Tisha Lewis reports Renteria’s book is in more than a dozen Chicago Public Schools, several community based organizations and juvenile detention centers. To date, Renteria says he’s donated his book to more than 20,000 teens and at risk youth.

For more information on Renteria and his book, visit his website.

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