Patrons of Hope Irving Church and supporters of La Buena Vida Youth Leadership Foundation gathered to celebrate the high school graduation of Robert Williams, Jaylon McNeil, Mario Zarazuat, Ezequiel Lopez Torres, and Timothy “T.J.” Doby with a burger cookout and cakes.
Joy Goodrum, executive director of La Buena Vida (LBV), beamed as she called the graduates to the stage to receive gifts and take pictures.
Boys in the program tend to have family issues and their parents might be incarcerated or otherwise neglectful. “If their families aren’t interested in celebrating this amazing success, that’s fine,” Goodrum said. “All of Irving can come and show them love and celebrate.
“Part of our [La Buena Vida’s] formula is these kids have to want more in life, and they have to want to all get along. We’re like a family.”
Both Ezequiel Lopez Torres and Timothy “T.J.” Doby graduated from MacArthur High School but were unaware of one another before LBV. Out of all the graduates, Torres has been at La Buena Vida the longest, since 10th grade. “I was living with my family, and I was having some problems with them,” Torres said.
He started sleeping in his car and almost dropped out of high school until he talked to his ROTC instructor who recommended him to the counselor who then, told him LBV was there to help. The process took about two days. He attributes his success to the woman who first encouraged him to go to school, Frances Piñeda.
Doby attributes his success to his school counselor, Tina Jane. At first, Doby was living with his mom, but he moved in with his aunt after his mom moved out of the state. Then he moved in with people he thought were his friends, but they robbed him. After that, Doby and Jane resolved to get him set up with La Buena Vida.
As for the graduates’ futures, Torres plans to work for a year before studying computers and technology in college.
Doby’s dream is to become an actor, but he said he has a lot of back-up plans and has enlisted in the Army reserves. He wants to finish classes at North Lake College, transfer to Tarleton State University, and then hopefully land a good audition during his time there.
“Everybody has their own situation and sometimes people get mad, but at the end of the day we still got each other’s back. We consider each other brothers,” Doby said.
La Buena Vida is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to “paving the road on the journey to ‘The Good Life’” for disadvantaged North Texas students. La Buena Vida not only provides housing for homeless male teens as they work toward graduation; it also provides teens with the skills and leadership principles needed for a successful transition into an independent professional life.
Last month, the young men took a trip to Austin where State Representative Rodney Anderson gave them a personal tour to the top of the State Capitol. Anderson also came to Hope Irving Church to celebrate the teens’ graduation on Monday, June 4.