By Ariana Renteria
After a constant struggle with gang involvement, East Los Angeles native Caesar Aguila has succeeded in turning his life around. “My mom was always on top of me. But every teenager wants to do their own thing, always wants to do the opposite of what their parents want them to do,” said Aguila.
Growing up without a father figure, Aguila was the youngest of five boys and one girl. Since his siblings were a lot older than he was, he was usually by his mother’s side or playing sports. “As a young kid, I was always good. It was in my teenage days when everything went different. Sports were my dream. Football was my dream, but somehow, someway I ended up joining a gang in high school,” said Aguila.
His sophomore year at Garfield High School became the beginning of what would be a long internal struggle. Aguila began to walk down a path of drugs, bad grades and a complete lack of motivation toward becoming the person he once thought he could be. “I don’t know, it’s just something that happens when you’re a young kid. How can I explain it?” said Aguila. “You feel lonely and you feel like that’s the only people you have, the people you grow up with you know?”
After an unsuccessful attempt at graduating from high school, he signed up to take classes at East Los Angeles College and almost immediately quit. His life began to go further south. He wasn’t working or going to school and a lot of his time was spent going in and out of jail. His drug abuse had been an ongoing struggle for the majority of his time in the gang; it was beginning to consume him.
After about a year of rehab and leaving the gang when he was about 20 years old, he began attending ELAC again. Football was one of the main reasons he decided to go back to school. It was at tryouts where he met football coach, Steve Mojarro. “Rehab opened my eyes, because I was there with older people, people who could have been my grandpa or my father and I would just picture myself in their situation. They couldn’t see their kids anymore, their kids didn’t want to be with them,” said Aguila.
Mojarro recalls seeing Aguila for the first time and pointing out the fact that gang tattoos almost covered his entire neck and arms. “It was just one of those situations where he looked so bad. I didn’t really want to talk to him or mess with him because he looked so gang affiliated,” said Mojarro.
“Coach Mojarro was one of the main people who inspired me and one of the reasons as to why I’m here becoming someone. He gave me opportunities to let me play and he always had our backs. He was not only a coach but he was also a friend,” said Aguila. While Aguila was at ELAC, one of his teammates helped him remove his tattoos. He then fought and gained full custody of his two-year-old daughter.
According to Mojarro, Aguila is one of the best football players ELAC has seen in the last four years, and he is currently playing football at Belhaven University, a private Christian school, in Jackson, Mississippi on a scholarship. “My change was definitely for my three kids and for myself,” he said, “I would picture myself at 30 years old, wondering if I would still want to be out gang banging and kicking it with little kids who are 20 years old. Or if I would want to be in college, on my way to having a job and having a house for my kids.”
Aguila, 23, is only just starting to fulfill his dreams. He hopes to return to East Los Angeles with a degree in psychology, so that he can be somebody.