Recipient of AFJ/ Andrew Glover Youth Program’s Second Chance Award, 2009
Robinson Diaz was born on the Lower East Side in 1990. He was one of the few local youth from a two-parent household. As the youngest in his family, he had three older brothers he could look up to.
Life was good — until, as a 5-year-old, he saw the oldest brother he admired arrested for selling drugs, and sentenced to ten years in prison. Suddenly, the life and values Robinson knew were shattered.
From that point on, Robinson lost respect for everyone, and didn’t feel he belonged – not at least to his home or school. Instead, he spent his time at the alternate home he had created for himself – the streets – hanging out with his homeboys, whom Robinson now calls “the acquaintances you call when you want to do something bad.” After Robinson’s first arrest, he enrolled in a job training program where he earned his GED while completing a job training course.
Unfortunately, his teacher at this program resigned – another key role model for Robinson – and the streets called again.
On October 14th, 2007, Robinson and his friend got drunk and burglarized a home. Robinson spent two days at Riker’s Island until his parents bailed him out with money they couldn’t afford for a son who seldom came home. He got the right message.
In January 2008, he walked into Avenues for Justice and met Angel Rodriguez, who told Robinson he’d have to apply himself 200 percent. Robinson became a regular at AFJ's local community center, started classes at LaGuardia Community College – and then tried to drop out. Angel put in double time mentoring him and his family to ensure Robinson wouldn’t give up on himself.
Today Robinson is active at Avenues for Justice while pursuing his degree in Gerontology at LaGuardia. His goal is to someday open a nursing home. He feels it is his responsibility to help as many people as he can because of the harm that he once caused others. Robinson credits his transformation to the role model who never gave up: “If it wasn’t for Angel, I wouldn’t have the second chance I have now. I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in. And I sure wouldn’t be in college! Angel made me believe in myself and made me strive to do better for me and the people who believe in me.”