Youth Empowerment understands that healing ourselves and our communities is at the core of our ability to build a transformative justice model that ends the cyclical nature of violence and community decline. We believe in the power of using trained Credible Messengers as mentors for our youth and adults, mentors who have lived experience in gangs, criminal activities, incarceration, physical, emotional or substance abuse.
Youth Empowerment is a frontline, grassroots community organization serving youth, families and community in City Heights and Southeast San Diego.
Arthur Soriano was released from prison at the age of 36 after a total of 23 years in the justice system for activities including attempted murder, gang leadership, drug dealing, and armed robbery. The love of his wife and the birth of their first child inspired him to find another way to live.
Arthur and his wife, Gabby Soriano, were raised in City Heights, San Diego’s most diverse community with the highest rates of poverty and interpersonal violence. He understood the influences that led him to gang involvement and he realized he could use his experiences to guide others down a different path than the one he had taken. Arthur had been a leader on the streets and in prison and knew he could use these same skills to organize and influence others to do good for themselves, their families, and their community.
Arthur began connecting with other former gang members he knew who were also looking to change their ways. In 2015, these grassroots beginnings became the model that would eventually become Youth Empowerment. He is now recognized by top law enforcement officials, probation, judges, school principals, and other human service nonprofits as an advocate for community change and an example that anyone can transform their life.
Today, Youth Empowerment is a leader of San Diego’s Credible Messengers movement and has received local and national recognition for its efforts. This movement has proven that those who have exited the justice system and transformed their lives are the most credible messengers when working with justice-impacted youth, adults, and families.