All odds were against “Frankie” Guzman growing up without a father in the heart of a California neighborhood known for gang activity and crack cocaine rings. His father abandoned the family when Guzman was only three-years old. Guzman was raised by a mother who commuted to the affluent community of Malibu, cleaning houses to support her family. By the time Guzman was an adolescent his father was incarcerated in a federal prison for attempting to cross the Mexican border with a large amount of cash.
Guzman’s brother “Freddie” was arrested when he was 17 for shooting a gang rival at a party. He was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 17 years to life in prison.
Guzman was enthralled by his brother and wanted to be with him even if it meant joining him in prison.
With no immediate male role model Guzman was on a downhill slope and going down fast. His high school GPA went down to 0.8 and he was expelled from school for a fight in the boy’s restroom.
But Guzman’s troubles did not end there.
Two weeks after being suspended from school, Guzman’s wish to be just like his big brother Freddie came true when he was arrested at 15. He and his friend stole a car and robbed a liquor store at gun point. Guzman was sentenced to 15 years at the California Youth Authority.
During incarceration Guzman had plenty of time to earn his GED — twice. He made valuable use of his time attending every class he possibly could while confined behind bars.
Just when Guzman was beginning to be inspired by education, events in the outside world crumbled his new found motivation for success.
Guzman’s uncle, the only male role model he had left that was not behind bars, passed away after a long addiction to drugs and alcohol and his best friend was killed in a gang fight.