University presenting honorary degree to Gregory Boyle, S.J.

Jesuit priest aids gang members, at-risk youth in L.A. via unique economic development programs | March 5, 2003

Gregory J. Boyle, S.J., has spent the last decade helping gang members, inner-city youth and former prison inmates turn their lives around. In recognition of his work and commitment to others, the University is giving him an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree Sunday, March 9. The degree is being presented to Boyle during the Alpha Sigma Nu induction ceremony at 5:30 p.m. in the Cintas Center. More than 50 students are being inducted into Alpha Sigma Nu, the national honor society of U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities. Boyle is the founder and director of Jobs for a Future/Homeboy Industries, a unique employment referral center and economic development program in Los Angeles. The center is a first-stop location for gang members, at-risk youth and recent prison inmates, where they can receive assistance in turning their lives around. The center offers job placement services, counseling, community service opportunities, case management services and even tattoo removal. It also owns four businesses: landscaping, graffiti removal, silk screening and a merchandise company with its own line of Homeboy gear. Boyle formed the center in 1988 when he was pastor at the Dolores Mission, the poorest church in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The church was located in the heart of the largest public housing project west of the Mississippi, where eight enemy gangs claimed territory and created an atmosphere of violence, fear and anxiety. Recognizing that many of the gang members were valuable young people needing alternatives to the street, Boyle set out to find a way to help them. Today, former gang enemies work side-by-side helping the community grow. The center places more than 350 people in jobs each year, helps nearly 400 youth each year make the transition out of probation camps, and counsels more than 100 people a year on various abuses and illnesses. For more information, contact the office of special events at 513-745-3571.