The Importance of Mentorships for Young Latino Men

By Brandy Ramirez (Published March 20, 2017 on

SAN ANGELO, TX –  The U.S. Census projects that by 2023 racial and ethnic minorities will represent more than half of all children, and the U.S. population will be 54 percent minority by 2050. With this changing demographic, issues of ethnic minorities and higher education remain an important topic. Although the number of ethnic minorities attending college has increased, especially amongst Hispanics, Latino males are falling behind their female counterparts.

This is not just an issue with Latinos, but of men of color overall.

According to The Educational Crisis Facing Young Men of Color, “across the board, young men [are] not persisting in school or achieving at the same level as young women.”

This lack of achievement is a result of many issues including poverty, language barriers, lack of educational resources, lack of parental involvement, poor study habits, and, according to the U.S. College Board, an “overemphasis on special education as a solution for boys acting out.”

Additionally, the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau found that Hispanic men compose of 8 percent of the U.S. population, but they make up 20 percent of the prison population.

Overall, experts agree that the way to battle this issue is through mentoring partnerships and/or male role modeling.

Ronald Williams and Adriana Flores-Ragade, in “The Educational Crisis Facing Young Men of Color,” said, “Mentoring is central to keeping young men engaged and involved, and several examples provide guidance in this area.”

Mentorship Vital to Success

One local Angelo State University student, Christian Garcia, spoke to LIVE! about how, at 21, he has managed to accomplish all he has because of the benefit of mentors who have helped him throughout his life.

Christian, a business major who is set to graduate in May, has quite the resume for a Latino his age. That resume includes participating in an entrepreneurial fellowship with Venture for America, being a financial analyst for Concho Educators Federal Credit Union, a presidential fellow for the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress, working for the Covenants Risk Group with The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., assisting the president of The Aegis Group, Ltd. and much more.

Not to mention, Christian is an honor student, a member of the Galilee Community Development Corp., chair of the ASU Multicultural Advisory Council, a member of the Student Advisory Board and San Angelo Chamber of Commerce, an Executive Board Member of the Student Government Association, and, because of his success thanks to mentors, Garcia is a mentor himself for ASU First Generation Rams.

Mentorships, Christian said, are like having a father figure because someone is there.

“They play that accountability role,” he said. “They push you and go to bat for you, and get you to work at your highest ability.”

Christian added that it’s also never about what they want. All his mentors focused on his talent and pushed him to figure out his life. When he came to the answers, they put him on the right path to get to the next step.

He mentioned that his parents started his success through their mentorship. His father shaped his work ethic, and his mother inspired his compassion and empathy for people, along with the ability to listen. Christian credits his success on his family because they’re “one of his centers.” He said without his father, he wouldn’t be the man he is today, but he’s aware not all young men are as lucky as he is.

Christian noted that elementary school wasn’t easy. He attended Reagan, and some of his friends from there turned to drugs, or have been killed.

“I think the absence of that father figure, or that mentor figure is life altering,” he said. “When they needed that person most to help them change their lives, they weren’t there.”

Christian, however, lucked out with his parents and then Mr. Joey Gandar, who helped shape his life as an educator and his YMCA coach.  He also helped shape Christian’s work ethic.

“That positive experience helped me eventually become who I am,” he said. 

Christian added that he had many more mentors along the way–more recently, San Angelo native Mario Castillo.

Although he has lived in Washington D.C. for many years and runs his business, The Aegis Group, LTD., from there, Castillo remains very immersed in the San Angelo community. He strongly supports the Lake View Mariachi group, and has mentored several students from the area.

Christian met Mario when the EU Ambassador to the U.S. came to San Angelo in November 2015. He was chosen by the College of Business Advisory Board to represent the university and drive the Ambassador’s daughter, Kate, around the city.

“That’s what it was originally supposed to be,” Christian said.

However, because of Christian’s credentials, Mario asked if he would walk with Kate downtown for the stroll they were scheduled to take. Everything went well, and Mario told Christian to contact him the next day and they would have lunch. That’s how the relationship started.

Over the course of the next few months, the two emailed each other, and Mario asked Christian about his grad school aspirations after ASU. Mario’s goal was for Christian to reach his full potential, and not to sell himself short. He started giving Christian advice on grad schools.

“I’ve lived here my entire life,” Christian explained. Thus, to expand his knowledge, Mario flew Christian to visit Washington D.C. and covered all expenses.While there, Christian said he visited Georgetown Law and Business and other prominent universities.

“If I hadn’t built that relationship [with Mario], none of that would have come to fruition,” Christian said.

While in D.C., Christian got to reunite with Kate and the Ambassador. He also got to experience the area Mario lives in. Former President Barrack Obama and his family now live a few doors down, and so does Ivanka Trump.

“As someone from San Angelo, it was crazy being in a place where you are only a few feet away from the former president of the U.S.,” Christian said. “I never thought little ol’ Christian from West Texas might have the opportunity one day to meet one of the presidents. It’s surreal.”

He said this is something he’ll always remember, and it’s something that will prompt him to remain in a positive circle of influence.

Christian said he jokes with Mario and tells him one day he’s going to buy his house. But more seriously, he said, “I aim to keep that promise. I hope I do the right things in life, and it will work out.”

Currently, Christian is preparing for an upcoming fellowship with Venture for America, a headhunter/small business development center. It focuses on business development in America in cities that need economic regeneration. The organization has over 400 partners and clients with startup businesses, and the goal is to help people who want to become entrepreneurs through a two-year fellowship. Venture for America helps with skill development, experience to acquire before starting a business, how to overcome roadblocks small businesses face, and how to sell a business and take it public.

After the fellowship, Christian wants to go on to graduate school in the U.S., start building and investing in businesses. Once he tastes success, his plan is to return to San Angelo and continue to improve building the city, and maybe run for public office.

“We’ll have to see how it all works out,” he said. However, Christian said he has plenty of time to continue the circle of mentorship.

“Mentorships can be life changing; they can be life-saving, I think,” he added. “If you contact someone who needs it at the right time, you never know how different [his or her] life might be.”

Christian concluded that its vital for the future of the U.S., in regards to the competitiveness of our economy, to invest more in Latinos.

“The ethnic majority will be Hispanic by 2050. Mentorship is vital to the development of millennials and the future,” he said. “We will be the face of the country in the fuel that moves this economic machine we call the United States.”

Mentoring Also Benefits the Mentor

As stated, Mario Castillo has taken several West Texans under his wing, including Christian, as a mentor.

He has a specific approach when mentoring, and that approach has been successful over the years.

In fact, Mario helped one student get an internship in a quasi-medical capacity, and now he’s a surgeon. Mario took another young man to the White House, and another young student stayed with him when he was getting his master’s. He’s now in senior management at a high-tech company in Fort Worth. These men have also found success in their family lives.

“They’re all great fathers,” Mario said.

He said he realized that for better or worse, he made an impression on these individuals, and to see how they have evolved over the years is always amazing.

“That’s the beauty of a mentorship program,” Mario said. “To be real honest with you, I think I get more out of it than they get out of it.”

Mario noted that he’s been lucky. He’s also had the opportunity to mentor two young women. One is at an agency in New York, and another in Florida. Mario said he took one of the girls to meet the Treasurer of the U.S.

“She was offered a summer internship, but the family was having the usual problem with her being so far from home,” he recalled.

He added, “These kiddos, the reason I like to be around them is their energy level is very high. They’re like a bunny on TV that goes around beating a drum. Their intellectual curiosity is amazing.”

Mario said they also have good conversations, and through his instruction, students like Christian get to share their view of their world and help him interpret social change in a new way.

“The mentoring is happening in reverse,” he said. “Ninety percent of the pleasure is watching them solve problems and never telling them what to do or say.”

Mario stated that his experiences with students usually evolve over a year or two, and they have their meetings when convenient. 

“I listen to them as they’re growing up,” he noted. “I get to see little snippets of them growing up.”

In regards to Christian, that’s how his relationship with him evolved. He said when he first met Christian, he didn’t spend much time with him, but he thought Christian had “a very agile mind.”

“I thought that he spoke well and he dressed well. He had very good manners of someone his age,” Mario said.

Mario wasn’t the only one to think so. The Ambassador also thought Christian to be very well-mannered and commented on it when he and Mario returned to Washington.

“His daughter also found him to be very gracious and inviting to the town,” Mario said.

After that, Christian emailed Mario and asked if he could call him. He asked Mario if he would mentor him.

“One thing he’s not—he’s not shy,” Mario laughed.

When asked why he wanted Mario to be a mentor to him, Christian said he was a major in business, and his honor’s professor told him Mario would be a good fit. Thus, Mario agreed and told him his expectations.

Last year, when Christian went to Washington, Mario said he took a few days off and took him to prominent colleges so Christian could be exposed to alternative institutes of higher learning. All in all, Mario said Christian’s ambition has stood out to him the most. 

“All of the kids who have been here have had ambition,” he noted.

In regards to mentorships, Mario explained that he’s offering young people alternatives.

“You, by God’s wisdom, change their lives,” he said. “Anyone can be a mentor.”

Mario also benefited from mentors, and said his best mentors were his grandparents. 

“They were hardworking people, raised a family, and had a couple of business interests,” he said.

They also played a major role in getting Mario where he is today. Also, thanks to three female mentors in Washington, Mario has the political standing that he does. One mentor, an older journalist, had him drive her around to various political events and gatherings on Capitol Hill during his fellowship, so he got the exposure he needed.

Also, thanks to Romana Acosta Bañuelos, the first Hispanic Treasurer of the U.S., whom Mario met through her assistant, he got to visit the White House and meet President Nixon when he was in office. 

“That’s when I first met President Nixon and other high ranking Hispanics,” he said.

Because of his experiences, Mario believes everyone should be a mentor. 

“And it’s not just young people who need a mentor,” he said.

Mario said older people need listening mentors as well as young people. Either way, there’s a need. Mentoring changes the lives of so many.

“I hope people do that more,” Mario concluded. 

Local Judge Discusses Lack of Mental Health Resources in Tom Green County

By Brandy Ramirez (Published April 18, 2016 on

Previously, San Angelo LIVE! reported on the high cost to Tom Green County taxpayers for people who sit in jail waiting for a conviction. Many of the men and women in the Tom Green County Jail cannot afford the bonds set, so their chances of re-offending increase.

As of 2013, the TGCJ witnessed about 381 people on average through its cells, and 70 percent of the pre-trial population sat in jail because of poverty (read more here).

We also explained how, because of the cost to taxpayers and the negative effects sitting in jail has on low-risk offenders, members of the Texas Judicial Council formed a Criminal Justice Committee last summer to review pre-trial practices in the state to determine appropriate changes (read that article here).

In addition to these problems, Tom Green County Judge Ben Woodward wanted to address another major issue facing inmates, judges and taxpayers: the lack of mental health treatment and resources.

The Statistics

According to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Texas ranks 50th nationally out of 52 jurisdictions in State Mental Health Agency per-capita expenditures. Additionally, the Texas’ Department of State Health Services notes that only 31 percent of Texas adults with severe and persistent mental illness have received services through DSHS. The agency also states that Texas’ mental health hospital system is outdated, facilities are not located in areas of greatest need and there are gaps in crisis services and prevention.

“Mental health treatment providers are scarce in many Texas correctional facilities (including private and state-operated prisons, state jails, transfer facilities, and others),” stated TCJC. “As of August 31, 2013, over 40 of the 112 facilities listed in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s directory had no mental health employees on site, despite some units having a maximum capacity of nearly 1,400 inmates.”

Because of these issues, many groups, including the Criminal Justice Committee, are seeking reform through the Texas Legislature.

The Problem in Tom Green County

Last month, Judge Ben Woodward dealt with an extreme mental health case where a San Angelo man in jail stayed at a mental health facility in Big Spring since 2010. It took six years and a lot of frustration to resolve this man’s case. Last month, he was finally competent enough to stand trial. Woodward said the man is schizophrenic, but he finally had his medication balanced out in a way that helped. In addition to being schizophrenic, the man is part of the poverty population and has no resources outside of jail to keep him going on the right path. He had no place to go once released.

“If he has no place to go, we’re worried he’ll stop taking his medication,” Woodward explained.

With the cooperation of the Tom Green County Sheriff’s office, MHMR set him up with services, but Woodward ordered, as a condition of probation, for the man to sit in jail for two days. The man thanked him.

Woodward said many of the inmates in TGCJ with mental health issues fall through the cracks of the justice system because of a lack of manpower and money.

If Tom Green County had the resources like Lubbock, these inmates could get the services they need, and the burden on taxpayers would lessen.

“Lubbock’s experience is 40 percent of their jail population dropped when they were able to get [their inmates] mental health services,” Woodward said.

Lubbock not only has the money for resources, but it also has an extra administrator. David Slayton, now Executive Director of the Office of Court Administration, used to hold that position.

“So when he sets his mind to do something, he has the knowledge, background and education to pull things together,” explained Woodward.

This is exactly what Tom Green County needs. With money, the County could hire someone with the appropriate training to “evaluate people, set up an effective structure and get things rolling,” said Woodward.

“Then we have to have cooperation with MHMR,” he noted. “We might be sending them a lot more people than they can handle.”

Judges would also need access to more information. Woodward said judges don’t know when people have a pending mental health problem or caseload because of privacy laws.

Woodward added that people getting thrown in jail and sitting there isn’t the only frustration.

“The other area that we’re having frustrations with in mental health is, a person cannot be brought to trial unless they’re competent,” he said. “That means they understand the charges; they can communicate with their attorney; they can recall facts about the circumstances; they can make rational decisions.”

If inmates are not competent, the judges send them to Big Spring and commit them so professionals there can try to restore their competence. However, Big Spring is “understaffed and undermanned,” added Woodward. He said it takes time to get people in, and the staff will sometimes send people back saying they’re competent.

“We’re not convinced they are,” Woodward noted. “They just got to move their patients.”

Judge Woodward said these people end up back in jail, and their lawyers say they can’t proceed because of competence, so the inmates remain in limbo because the judges don’t know what to do with them.

Woodward also said, in many cases, inmates don’t become competent so the judges will commit them to a long-term facility. 

“They have to stay at a long-term mental health facility until they actually do become competent,” he said.

Or, they’ve been there the equivalent of a prison sentence and can’t go beyond that. Woodward said it’s hard getting them into such a facility.

“We’ve had people stay in Tom Green County for months waiting for a bed at a mental health facility,” he stated.

Depending on the crime, these inmates go to specific places. For violent crimes, the inmates go to Vernon and Kerrville. If they’re not violent offenders, they go to Big Spring.

Judge Woodward said another issue has to do with drug testing for cases that correlate with mental illness. Currently, DPS runs the chemical labs that do all the scientific testing, but those labs get backed up.

“They’ve been addressing those through the DPS procedures, and have realigned somewhat where they send some of their evidence to be tested,” Woodward said. “They’re trying to balance out the caseload and trying to address that in house, but they need more chemists and labs.”

Woodward said these problems have to be addressed by the Texas Legislature. Until that happens, and counties like Tom Green are provided with the proper resources, many inmates will continue to sit in TGCJ when they should be getting mental health treatment. Also, taxpayers will continue to fit the bill.

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