What one first notices about Rabel is his sense of humor. As Rabel introduces himself with a charming crooked teeth smile, the vulnerability in his eyes gives away his age (he is seventeen, but seems at least twenty) and the sadness and loss he has experienced in life. Rabel grew up in a household with two alcoholic parents. Although he is unable to tell the exact age when it happened, his mother abandoned Rabel when he was a child and seemed unable to cope with motherhood due to her alcoholism. Rabel grew up under the care of his alcoholic father. Needless to say, like Rabel’s mother, his father coped poorly with raising a child. By the time he had become a teenager, Rabel was a self-described lazy student and had already joined a gang in his neighborhood of Capotillo called “La Nación”. “Thankfully,” Rabel jokes, “not only was I a lazy student, but also a lazy gang member”.
Due to this reason, Rabel never had the opportunity to make money by selling drugs (he says he mostly joined the gang to get ladies), but he did end up getting into minor fights with members of a rival gang. A string of fights between “La Nación” and a rival gang culminated in one big fight where some were hurt, a few lost their lives, and many ended in jail. Rabel was not present at this fight, and for that he feels thankful. After that, Rabel found out about Alerta Joven through one of the “multiplicadores” (program promoters) and he joined the program. After joining Alerta Joven, Rabel completed the barbershop program. Rabel excelled at the barbershop program. After completing the barbershop program he had two realizations: he had the capacity to excel and he enjoyed excelling. Rabel now has plans to attend college, and after that he wants to work at a barbershop and hair salon chain in Capotillo. Another realization Rabel had while in the program? Being at Alerta Joven has done more for him with the ladies than being a gang member ever did.