Louis “Louie” Nanez, Jr. grew up on the west side of San Antonio in the mid-1970s. Like so many kids in urban areas, he was exposed to gang violence, drugs, and the rougher aspects of street life at an early age. At 17 years old, his parents knew they had to do something and pushed him hard to enlist in the military. He did, joining the U.S. Navy upon graduation.
However, Louis’s troubles didn’t end there. He became heavily involved in the party life that often envelopes young men, drinking at first, and then moving on to more serious habits like cocaine. But, life kept rolling on. Louie married and soon had three daughters to take care of. “My addiction was pretty bad when my kids were young,” Louie explains. “I was arrested several times in the 1990s.” But, with the resolve to come clean, he was eventually able kick his drug addiction.
It appeared that things were turning around. Louie was feeling good about losing the addict label. But, it wasn’t long before his inner struggles manifested themselves in another way. Anger became his new outlet. He lashed out at everyone. Frustration and irritation ruled his life. Then, after an assault incident in 2010, Louie was arrested on multiple charges and sent to prison. Louie was determined to keep his family together. But, life in prison doesn’t make this an easy task. So, Louie began exploring programs within the prison system and was referred to one administered by The RIDGE Project, the TYRO Dads program.
As many readers know, TYRO literally means to be “a man worth following.” At first, Louie didn’t buy it. He didn’t think one program could make that much difference in a man’s life. But after a couple of sessions, he was all in. “It was relief,” Louie commented. “Hearing other men’s stories and how they were proud to share about fatherhood made me want to do the right thing.” Louie would send letters to his wife Melissa about what he was learning and how he was becoming a man of honor. During TYRO, he knew he wanted to move onto the next level and he enrolled in The RIDGE Project’s couple communication program, a curriculum that teaches men how to communicate with their wives.
After 18 months, Louie was released from prison. Last October, he took another big step and moved to Hawaii. He and Melissa now live on the island of Maui. Louie works as a tour guide on Mt. Haleakalā. “I am learning to hunt wild pigs and spear fish. I’m reinventing myself at 51 years old,” he beams.
“The RIDGE Project has changed my life,” Louie says. “My wife reaches out to grab my hand now when I need it. I have a great job now.” He explains how it has been a lot of hard work, but that it’s worth every bit of it. Louie’s advice to other clients considering the TYRO program is simple. “Do it! There really is life after prison, and you really can change the world one person at a time.”