ocumentary shines light on professor who overcame life as a gang member

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CSUSM’s Transitions Collective hosted a screening of The Pushouts, a documentary film directed by Katie Galloway centered around the story of Dr.Victor Rios; a college professor, author, speaker and former gang member.


Rios grew up in Watts, California and began selling heroin and stealing cars from a young age. He dropped out of school in the eighth grade with the mentality that school wasn’t necessary because he wasn’t making money that his family needed.


After several run-ins with law enforcement, Rios eventually returned to high school with the help of one of his teachers and his mentor Martin Flores. He was able to graduate on time and with his class. Rios went on to earn his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley and now teaches sociology at UC Santa Barbara.


The Pushouts follows Rios as he returns to Watts and leads a six to eight week summer program, alongside Flores, called Yo!Watts which consists of at-risk youths from the local area.


The film uses a collection of student testimonials to show how race, class and power are all factors that work against these students to make them pushouts not dropouts, because they are systematically pushed out of the school system and into the prison system.


The film notes that more than half of black and Latino children grow up in poverty which filters them into an ongoing cycle of abandoning their education and joining gangs out of the necessity for survival. Ultimately, it’s these students who come from non-affluent families that feed the school to prison pipeline.


Flores said, “education is a way up and a way out” for these students. This mantra was exactly what Rios and Flores wanted the students of Yo!Watts to understand and for one student, it changed his life.


William Fabian, a student from Yo!Watts and guest speaker at the Transitions Collective event, spoke on his battle with staying in school and out of gangs.


“Even if you struggle, you can overcome it,” Fabian said.

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