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Posted inInspire Me

From gang member to community leader: How the San Jose Black Berets changed one man’s life

One of the first things you might notice about Manny Ortega is that he has a lot of tattoos. He got his first right out of elementary school. It said “Eastside,” and it brought him a lot of trouble. That tattoo got him in a gang-related fight that awarded him his first jail time: a week or a day at the Youth Authority Center — the details are lost in the fog of memory. It wouldn’t be his last time behind bars. Today, though, many of Ortega’s tattoos are monuments to a person who no longer exists. Since joining the San Jose Black Berets 12 years ago, he has given up running with gangs and living the “street life.” Instead, he has dedicated his life to service to the community — through his work with the Black Berets and as a peer support worker with the Santa Clara County mental health criminal services.