From the Barrio to a Global Sensation: A Latino Success Story

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local NewsExactly five years ago, East L.A. native Robert Renteria, chairman of Mi Barrio Foundation, came up with an idea that would transform the lives of youth across the country and change the way some public school systems engaged students. “It was certainly the best idea I ever had,” laughed Renteria. More specifically, it was a chance encounter with a young man who asked Renteria to share the secret to his success that inspired him to develop a platform that would instill the core values of leading an accomplished life. “He liked the Mercedes-Benz I drove and asked what I had to do to get it,” said Renteria. “When I responded, ‘hard work,’ he stood there in disbelief. That’s when I knew so many young kids, like him, were hungry to gain knowledge.”

Shortly thereafter, Renteria began putting his life story of growing up in an embattled neighborhood into words in hopes that it would inspire others to deviate from bad behavior. ‘From the Barrio to the Boardroom,’ was written and released three years ago as a template for promoting hard work, dedication, and education by using Renteria’s personal accounts of his childhood. “Did I steal? Yes. Did I rob houses? Yes. I’m not proud of the decisions I made, but back then it was about survival,” said Renteria.

Renteria came from humble beginnings, growing up in an impoverished East L.A. neighborhood. His father, a drug and alcohol addict, left the family when Renteria was just a young boy. “My mother worked two to three jobs to make sure we got everything we needed. She didn’t want us to fall into the system. Unfortunately, as I got older peer pressure set in and I fell in with the wrong crowd,” said Renteria. As a teenager, he became involved with a gang, used and dealt drugs, dropped out of high school, was shot at and stabbed, and went from one dead-end job to another. However, that all changed when Renteria learned that his estranged father had died on skid-row. He soon vowed to make better choices in his life. He returned to school, joined the military, and after serving seven years in the United States Army, he moved to Chicago. “I am not ashamed of my past. I learned from it and ultimately I believe that is why the book has been successful,” said Renteria. “So many people can relate to it. They see themselves in the stories I tell.”

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

Author and Chairman of the Mi Barrio Foundation Robert Renteria, has devoted his life to spreading a positive message for youth across the country with his acclaimed book, ‘From the Barrio to the Boardroom.’

Success seems to be an understatement considering the global intrigue that has latched on to ‘From the Barrio to the Boardroom.’ Currently, ‘From the Barrio to the Boardroom,’ has been implemented into the curriculum of over a dozen Chicago Public Schools, several universities, and social organizations across the country. In addition, ‘From the Barrio to the Boardroom’ continues to transcend barriers across the globe, printing in Brazil, China, and the Philippines. “I honestly thought I was just going to write a book and that was it. I didn’t think it would grow into something bigger than me,” said Renteria. Fortunately, Renteria was ready for the journey his book would take him. Now, Renteria has dedicated his life to sharing his story with thousands of others so that they, too, can break away from what Renteria calls the ‘vicious cycle’ of poverty through hard work, determination, education, and faith. “I want to give youth goals; I want to make them see that there is a bigger picture for them. They just have to create it and follow it,” said Renteria. “I want them to learn from my story. I want them to find their identity and establish core values.” Last year, Renteria launched the graphic novel ‘From the Barrio,’ to appeal to elementary school students. Currently, he is in talks to convert his story into a play by the end of summer. “I didn’t let anyone tell me I couldn’t do something. I believed in myself to know what I was really capable of and my faith helped me through. I hope that’s the message youth gain from my book,” said Renteria.

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