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In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Winona State University will host “From Gang Member to Pediatrician: the Recycling and Cultivation of Human Purpose” with Juan Pacheco at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 17, in East Hall, Kryzsko Commons.

Growing up, Pacheco encountered racism and discrimination and felt unsupported by his community. He sought a place to belong and ended up part of a gang. As a result of his involvement in gang violence, he suffered the loss of his best friend, spent time in time in jail and lost his college scholarship.

Today, Pachecho is a premed student at George Mason University (http://www.gmu.edu) and hopes to become a pediatrician. He is an advocate of nonviolence who helps youth across the country to find alternatives to the violence that affects their lives and their communities. Pacheco currently works with Barrios Unidos, the youth violence prevention/intervention and community awareness organization that helped him turn his life around. The organization focuses on positive self-esteem, constructive goals and cultural pride and works to connect at-risk youth with families, schools, police and other existing institutions to provide support.

“My strategies for successful community and youth work come out of my own experiences as a gang member, a youth who had no one there to help me through my ordeals, and now I can be there for youth like me and help them turn their lives around,” said Pacheco. “I was a gang member who now hopes to become a great physician. Others can do the same if given a chance.”

For more information, email Alexander Hines, Director of Inclusion and Diversity (http://www.winona.edu/inclusion-diversity/default.asp), at AHines@winona.edu.

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Kylie Bridenhagen

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