Have you ever had a teacher who you admired a lot, who you became close with, and whom you wanted to thank for contributing to shaping you as the person you are today? Well, this is exactly what this story is about: gratitude and returning the blessing someone once gave you.
Randy Gamboa has been a youth leader in a rough neighborhood of Las Vegas for twenty years. During these years he has made it his mission to save teenagers from the streets and what that may bring along.
“Really rough neighborhood, very low income, ” says Gustavo Soto, Gamboa’s former student. “If you ride through there at any time of the day, you’re gonna see high crime, homelessness, a lot of gangs, vacant apartment homes [and] drug slaes.” former students of Gamboa’s narrate.
So, a long time ago, this man decided to do something in order to help these kids escape what looked like a dead-end at the time. The kids thought that the only options they had were gangs, drugs and, possibly, prison. That was until they met Gamboa, who genuinely wanted to help them.
And so he did. He turned Stupak Community Center into these kids’ second home. They used to gather there or organized group activities like canoeing, trips to Magic Mountain, car-washes and anything that could help these teenagers learn how to spend their time productively. Participating in such activities taught them various values and skills that they could use growing up to lead crime-free lives.
This, according to his ex-students, sometimes meant that Gamboa had to sacrifice a lot of time away from his family and friends in order to be with the kids whenever they needed him. Not only did he act as a leader, but also as a father figure, a brother or a friend that would always listen to their problems and try to help them out.
So, a few months ago, when these now grown-up Vegas kids found out that Gamboa’s family was facing financial issues, they decided to say “thank you” in a special way that involved the support of the Fox5 Surprise Squad.
On the day of the reunion with their former leader, a large group of men and women, many of whom now have children of their own, gathered at the youth center and had a profound discussion with Gamboa. The man was touched by their kind words, but that was only part of the surprise. At that time a member of the Surprise Squad entered the room and explained that they had decided to help him by offering him $2,500, along with a Community Hero Award for all that he has been doing for the local children all these years.
And that is when the biggest surprise came: Don Forman, owner of United Nissan, after congratulating him for all these years of serving the community, took him outside to see his new car, a gift from United Nissan. That was when Gamboa broke down into tears, thanking everyone and explaining that these children had given him much more than they believed he had given them.
“I’m so excited and overjoyed. I’m overwhelmed. […] I think it’s you that made a difference in my life. You are the ones that changed me to be the person I am today.”
Randy Gamboa is really a hero in the eyes of these children. He changed their lives for the better, but, as he confesses, he would not be the same person he is today if he hadn’t met them and gone through a lot of experiences with them.
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