Roy Ruiz is in the same place his father was when he was first born: a California youth correctional facility.
But the 19-year-old is determined to end the pattern. Ruiz plans to get out – and stay out – for his toddler son, Jayden.
“Right now, I’m following in my dad’s footsteps in doing what he did to me, but I’m trying to make myself better,” Ruiz said.
That’s what Place 4 Grace is counting on. The organization provides services to help better connect incarcerated men with their families.
“The number one thing that motivates them to do better, be better, go home and stay home, is their kids,” Place 4 Grace founder Karen McDaniel told a group of young fathers at the Stockton Youth Correctional Facility on Friday.
McDaniel was at the facility to help the 11 young men record themselves reading children’s books for their kids. This is the first time Place 4 Grace is conducting the program at a youth facility.
“Having done so much work at level four maximum security prisons, I can really see that right here is where the majority of the programs need to be in terms of breaking the cycle,” McDaniel said.
When Ruiz gets out in August, having completed his GED, he plans to enroll at Fresno City College. Eventually, his goal is to go to Fresno State.
“I feel like I need to man up, to get out there, and support my family,” Ruiz said.
But for the moment, Ruiz is focused on mastering different superhero voices to read the book he picked out for Jayden.
Once the record button is pressed, Ruiz begins talking to his 3-year-old.
“Hi Jayden, this is Daddy,” Ruiz said. “I’m going to read you a story – I hope you like it.”