“If it weren’t for Debbie and Armando I would be dead. They stuck with me when no else would. They taught me a new way of looking at myself and my surrounding world. Through their practice of unconditional love they showed me through their action the real work it takes to transform a pathetic, lost and desperate soul, like I was. Today I love myself and am working hard to be a good friend to myself, to be a good mother, a good community servant. I owe it all to Debbie and Armando and the KEYS program.”
“I came into the KEYS program angry at the world and full of rage. Armando and Debbie worked with me, listened to me, gave me guidance and hope that I could do better and that I had to get rid of the hate and anger. From an angry teen, I became a father at a very young age, I married at a young age, and I had trouble adjusting to my responsibilities. Armando, with his unconditional love, listened and gave me guidance. “ You’re a man; now take care of business he told me. You can do it!” Then we went out and got busy and started searching for work, Debbie helped with the resume, the letters of reference, and the phone calls. It has been rough, I won’t lie, but Armando and Debbie are always there- I can count on them. I love them!”
“When I first met Debbie and Armando I was full of hate, rage and pain. Some of my closest friends had died violently. I had a lot of hate for the world. I hated myself. I started being in one KEYS program and then another and little by little my hatred started to go away. I had always written poetry and Debbie and Armando saw talent. They encouraged me to write about my pain and anger, the stuff that was eating me up, and so I did. I ended up writing a book of poetry that Debbie and Armando helped me self-publish. Over the years I have worked hard to let go of the pain and I can always turn to Armando and Debbie. I’m working full time going to college and enjoying life. Now I am pushing my younger relatives and friends to attend and participate in the KEYS program, I know it will help them just like it helped me. I love Debbie and Armando.”
Dear Debbie and Armando,
Hi! How have you been? I hope you two are good and that only good is in your life. I have so much to say but I can’t find the words to say them. First of all, I want to tell you that I am grateful that you two were put in my life. I don’t where I would be if I had not come across you two. I thank you so much for opening my eyes to a whole new world, I never would have come to know this world full of unconditional love! I am very happy to say that my life is way better. I am getting along so much better and that the sadness in my heart is slowly going and that things with my mom are getting better day by and that all this thanks to you. I am sorry because I am unable to attend the KEYS program and I am sorry but please don’t think that I have forgotten all you taught me. I am day by day teaching others about unconditional love and a peaceful world. I will continue to talk to you and keep working on an anti hate society. Thanks to You.
Story from KEYS Graduate Jacob
Hello, my name is Jacob and I just want to thank Armando & Debbie for the time they dedicated to teach us about things that it would take another person to learn, find or just figure in a lifetime. One thing they helped me figure out was love, that there’s different ways you can show love whether it’s mental, physical, or emotional. Debbie & Armando taught & gave me mental love, and it’s hard for an older person to teach a stubborn kid about things like that, & it’s not because the stubborn kid doesn’t want to be taught, it’s because he doesn’t want to be let down & Debbie & Armando didn’t let me down. Armando mentioned one time, “ in the beginning of the ten week I came in with anger”, and the only way I tried to release that anger was by boxing & they taught me different ways to express my emotions such as anger, and you can express them by music videos, art or making mochas, so thank you Armando & Debbie for showing me these things.
“The KEYS Leadership Academy teached me that it’s better to be happy than angry. For example, now I’m more responsible and don’t maddog. I learned that I need to be happy or the rest of my life or I will be miserable. I have learned the love they have for all of us. I’d rather be at Café on A then on the streets. I don’t gange bang, but I still need help because I too active and get a little crazy.”
“The KEYS Leadership Academy have teached me that how peace feels. Also another thing is that I am more responsible. For example, I waste my time sometimes because I don’t concentrate, but now I like how they teach.”
“In the program I have learned what happens outside my walls. What’s going on with people and community of Oxnard. I learned that love and peace is bigger than I realized. It’s really important to me. When I’m here I’m comfortable and my confidence is pretty high. I don’t fake having my head held high. I like how open everyone is.”
“Coming to the KEYS program I learned that you have to give respect to get it back. They tell us how life really is. How something can’t affect us right now but it will later on in life. Armando and Debbie encourage us to go to college so we won’t be working at Carl’s Jr or something like that. I want to have a real job like a doctor or lawyer. Clinicas has taught me how hard it is to be a young girl and have a child.”
“Coming to the KEYS program, I learned to respect people. Debby Tracy, Cristina, Julie and Armando have enlightened me with ideas. They are people that I look up to. They inspire me. I’ve had an opportunity to learn about college and how to be a better person. I love and hope that I will never have to leave these inspirational people. I am very and forever thankful I am in the happy environment, and being around these people. Thank you for the program.”
I have learned how to love people for who they are and not how they look.
I have learned how to get myself involved in my community.
I have learned how to look at myself and find my flaws, and improve them.
I have learned how to write badass poetry.
“I have learned coming to the KEYS Program that violence is not a good way of dealing with problems.”
“The most important thing I learned in the KEYS was to stay positive and don’t let negative things bring you down. If you see the positive in something you won’t stress as much.”
“At the KEYS Leadership Academy I learned many things. One thing is when they showed us about human growth and development and they showed us about puberty and pregnancy. When we saw a movie about people’s lives in gangs and all that, it showed that they’re bad because you risk your life. So I learned a lot of things in just a few weeks and I hope I use all these things I’ve learned to do the good things and avoid the bad things.”
“The KEYS Leadership Academy program is where Debby and Armando teach us. They try to teach us important things that are going to end up being good for our future like behaving and creating peace with the world. Also we learn that any decision we do in life even when we are young will affect us for the rest of our life. Also they have tried to teach us not to have so much anger and to express our feelings.”
“In the KEYS Leadership Academy I have learned a lot about what happens in life and what I can do to be a better person in life. The KEYS program helps me learn about what can happen to us teenagers if we choose to go down the wrong path. Armando and Debbie give us real life situations that have happened to people and that opens my eyes to encourage me to do good and behave. They teach us to be good people to everyone because one day we might need them. We learn to be respectful tour environment because it’s where our future stands. They have pretty much talked to us and taught us about things I can not talk to my parents about. They always are here to listen and help us. They get us to think about what we can do to understand many different situations that can happen to us. They taught us how to deal with almost everything and I feel like I can go to them for everything. I would like to thank Debbie and Armando for always being here and also for helping and teaching met o be a better person. I feel like if I try I can make a difference in life.”