Pueblo cares about recalls. Pueblo cares about saving a power plant. But so few care about saving 15-year-old lives in the "other" parts of Pueblo, Colorado.
Did you hear the story of the 15-year-old boy who was murdered on the streets of the east side of Pueblo?
I knew that boy. His name was Isaac Lucero Jr., 15.
I got to know Isaac from my time at El Centro Del Quinto Sol, a recreation center on the east side of Pueblo. He was a good kid.
My fiancé, who also worked there before I did, knew him when he was just a small child and she watched him grow up. Isaac wasn’t just a regular, he was a friend to many of the kids there–a friend of mine–and was the epitome of what is expected for life by the youth of underprivileged means.
When I saw people talking on Facebook about a boy named Isaac who was murdered, I quickly searched for which Isaac it was. When I saw that it was our Isaac, I was shocked because I expected this to happen to a gang member. It just happened to be Isaac. When I called my fiancé, her hysterical words behind the tears were simply, “No, no, no, not my Isaac!”
Isaac got involved with a crowd whose goals were different than the norm. He wasn’t innocent but he’s also not a cold-blooded gang banger that you see on television, or even the type of gangster you think you would see in Pueblo.
A few months earlier, Isaac had told me that one day he wanted to go to college. Instead he was laid to rest.
For a place that prides itself on tradition, I sure hope we haven’t lost grip on what that word means, because there’s not much tradition in letting the youth fall by the wayside.
It’s too easy to say I made a choice to live a different life so Isaac deserved what he received. Isaac didn’t deserve to be murdered. He deserved a chance to have a better life.
I had plenty of friends who struggled with me in the east side, but we eventually made better lives for ourselves. I went to college to be a journalist. One of my friends went to medical school to be a doctor. A few of them moved on to eventually join the military. And others have worked hard to be successful. Regardless of our backgrounds and our sometimes bad attitudes, we were able to fight through the challenges and do something positive.
These kids still exist today. I know kids in the east side that just stick to themselves and work hard in school. I know kids who come from broken homes in the east side but are infinitely talented. The ones I see all the time at El Centro are simply wonderful kids and they have so much going for them, but it all could be taken away in a heartbeat if they get mixed up with the wrong crowd.
As an east sider, I’m going to say it, not enough is being done in the poor areas of Pueblo. No one should be dying.
Places like El Centro do a good job of trying to give families a safe place with resources for children but I would like to see more done outside of the center. Every school should have a mentor program and resources so children and families have ways to improve their living standards. Let’s teach finance management, offer classes for work skills and provide family counseling. There should also be an outreach program outside of school, that offer help with homework or just someone to talk to. It also wouldn’t hurt to beef up the gang unit at Pueblo Police Department.
All these kids have potential. Seven year-olds do not wake up one day and decide they want to grow up to have nothing. I have a great family, a mother and father that care, and a good set of friends who have helped me. But I know there are ones who have it harder, in those cases the community is needed to support the ones who do not have a good home life.
What you may not know about me is that I could have been Isaac. I had a similar east side Pueblo life. I ran with similar kids and they were into gangs, drugs and alcohol. I actually ran around with friends that were in the same gang as Isaac, except I remained unaffiliated. It’s hard to not have at least one friend that’s a gang member while growing up in Pueblo.
All we really need to ask is, are we interested in protecting and caring for these kids in the “other parts” of Pueblo?
There are people fighting to save an old power plant. Thousands of people who put their names to recall our state senators and Pueblo City Council members. But there is no one marching at El Centro demanding a better life for kids like Isaac.
I went into journalism to tell these stories yet it’s tough to see what change is happening in parts of the city.
Today the east side is quiet except for the echoes of gunshots, maybe ending the lives of kids like Isaac. Kids who were once like me.