The inaugural recipient of the “Honorable Teresa Guerrero-Daley Inspiration Award,” Evelyn Gonzalez, is making a positive impact by influencing youth going through probation to make better decisions and successfully their complete probation. 

Watch the video and to hear about her journey from a difficult upbringing, to having her son at 16, landing her dream school, and paying it forward for youth experiencing things like she did.  You can also find a transcript of her inspiring story after the video.

Video Transcript: ​2021 Teen Success, Inc.’s “Honorable Teresa Guerrero-Daley Inspiration Award”My name is Evelyn Gonzales. I am 23 now and I live in San Jose, California. ​

What was your upbringing like?
My dad was alcoholic. He did drugs so we were constantly moving. We also had to go through a lot of stuff, like he left us without money sometimes. Sometimes we saw a lot of violence, a lot of domestic violence. I think from that, not having any positive influences or role models pushed me to kind of follow the same footsteps as my dad.  

Well, I as a minor, I did become involved with like gangs. I was always around them because those are the only kids that you see around, because we had the same life. I was pretty wild, but I got incarcerated. Then when I found out I was pregnant, that was my turning point. That’s where I kind of stopped and turned my whole life around. ​
What were some of the challenges you faced as a young mother?

My challenges were coming in front of old acquaintances, I still live in the same neighborhood that I grew up in. That was one of my biggest challenges I would say. Living where I was living too sometimes because I don’t have the most positive family. Sometimes, you know, the problems there, will affect me a lot. Emotionally, I’ll get depressed and just, you know, close myself so much. That was another challenge as a whole.  

My son’s name, Matthew Gonzales and he is 7. My whole pregnancy, I was incarcerated. It was hard. It was the worst. I spent a lot of time in self-reflection. After I had him, I was on a roll, I finished school. I graduated on time even though I hardly even went to high school. I catched up really quickly, did extra work. At the meantime, I will work in the morning at Macy’s. I was working full-time. And you know, when you grew up poor and, and you know, in the Latino community, you don’t see, you don’t talk about college. You don’t see yourself going to college. It’s just like, you don’t have money, you won’t go. When they told me, “You want to go to college and blah, blah, blah,” I don’t got money, no way I’m going to go. So, what we do in my culture, we just work, that’s it. How did you hear about Teen Success?

The way that I heard about Teen Success was through my probation officer. Teen Success called me and yeah, they, they told me about it. I said, let me see, let me try it. See what happens. 

My relationship with the Teen Success staff it’s, I think, pretty strong. It was just like, like if they were you know, your tia or your mom, you know. I felt like a warm vibe, you know. It’s like, though they’re  
genuine, so caring, you know, and then you could see the passion in them. And you know, their willingness to help us young moms, they would see the potential, you know, and for that, you know, made you feel good. In what ways has Teen Success supported you and in your career goals?

They have supported me tremendously. Especially, because as a Dreamer, you know, you can’t really just get a nice [job], I could, I could get a good job, but they won’t accept me because I’m not born here. But, so I feel like for me, it’s just a blessing and I mean, the tuition scholarships, I mean, if it wasn’t for that, where am I going to get the money to go to school? So, it has supported me in that aspect. And I can keep going, you know, I don’t have to stop. I don’t have to cut my education because they’re there to help me and back me up financially. Teen Success just offers, like I said, so much help in so many areas for women like us, young mothers. So, for me, it’s like, it’s like a life coach and now, anywhere I go, they ask me what has helped you get here? You know, it’s always Teen Success that I bring up for sure. What are you most proud of? ​

I think what I’m most proud of, because of my good grades, I was accepted to my dream school. That was like a dream. So they tell me, “you got accepted to Santa Clara University,” and I’m like, “Ooooh, okay!” And you know, and you either go there because you’re rich, it’s a private school, or because you’re really, really smart. And I had a friends that tried to get in there and they could pay for it, but, you know, they, they don’t get accepted. So I’m like, “why they accepted me?” Well, you know, they didn’t even know that I was going to have money to pay for that! How are you involved with your community?
The one [organization] that I always remained involved in would be YC [Youth Center], which is a partnership between Fresh Lifelines for Youth, that’s down the street, and Juvenile Probation Department. So what we do there, we hold orientations for the new youth who barely got put on probation. And then, I also share my story to influence them to make better decisions and to successfully finish probation. We get to have part in community councils and meetings. What does being the Hon. Teresa Guerrero-Daley Inspiration Award Recipient mean to you? So, I did win the award which is the Teresa Guerrero-Daley [Inspiration] Award which is for a young mother who’s passionate about education and social justice. When Becka told to me about it, like, yeah, you know, thank you for thinking about me! And so that’s, that’s me. I think that just defines who I am. I love education, never have enough of it. Plus, social justice, it’s in my blood. I think that’s my calling. That’s what I just love doing. I’m really thankful and grateful for them because that also helped me kind of feel more confident about myself, feel better about myself. So yeah, I wanted to say a big shout out and thank you to Teen Success for that.  I do see myself in five years probably doing law school. I really just, I don’t know. I just, I feel like that’s, that’s my calling. In 20 years, I do hope that I’m involved in some type of state or national politics. I do hope that I get to have a seat in our politics. So that’s where I see myself in probably, say, like 15 years.  

​I used to feel like a victim, you know, or [people] would hurt me emotionally, mentally, and now it’s like I’m kind of proud because now I feel like I can overcome any obstacles. I’m like, “Okay, well, I’ve been through worse. So what’s up?” You know?