Street Smart AND School Smart

I’m Brandon Lee Vega

I was born in East L.A. My family moved to Oakland when I was 13 because my mom was looking for a better paying job.

Brandon Lee Vega
YA! client Brandon Lee Vega

I’m 19 now. We live in the Deep, also known as Deep East Oakland. My dad left when I was 7. When I needed him he wasn’t there. When my dad left out of my life, my uncle was helping raise me, then he was gone, away to jail for life. I think boys depend on their dad. Without that, they don’t have that guidance.

I got in trouble in L.A. and I got in trouble in Oakland. I got in fights. I sold weed. I robbed people. I hung around with older guys. Guys I met in the hood. I dropped out. I was never school smart. My school was the streets.

Then I got arrested and went to juvy. When I got out, Youth ALIVE! came into my life.

Then I got arrested and went to juvy.

Brandon & Jesus
Brandon & Jesus

When I got out, Youth ALIVE! came into my life. They help you get back to school, get off probation and stay off probation. I see my case manager Jesus Martinez a lot. He commits to it. He says, Bro, I’ll see you on Wednesday, he’s there on Wednesday. (Even if I’m not.) Shows he cares. I tell everybody, Jesus is family. Because he helps me out. It’s all positivity. Me and Jesus, we’ve been through the same things. With him, I learn how to forgive. He tells me, sometimes we forgive, even though it’s hard.

Now I’m surrounded by positivity. I want to get my diploma and go to college. It’s always in your head, college, college, college. It’s stressful! But it’s way better than the negativity I was used to.

Not so long ago, I told Jesus how I got in an argument with my mom. I was telling him what I did. And he was like, you messed up, you got to make it right. Jesus, he doesn’t show fake love. I have friends who show fake love. But he doesn’t. I never had that love in my life until now. I trust him.

With Jesus’s help, I attended the first meeting of Oakland’s new Youth Leadership Council and I’m applying to be a permanent member. I have a lot to say and I’m not afraid to say it.

Jesus also works with some of my friends, and we all believe in him. He helps us believe in ourselves. Thanks for reading. I really hope you will consider giving a donation to Youth ALIVE! by clicking