Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom


Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit Catholic priest who founded the Homeboy Industries gang intervention program in Los Angeles, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.

Boyle is one of 19 recipients who will be honored Friday at the White House by President Joe Biden. The honorees include high-profile figures such as Vice President Al Gore, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Opal Lee, an educator and activist known for her efforts to make Juneteenth a federally recognized holiday.

The award, established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, is given to people who have “made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

In a statement, the White House described Boyle as the founder of the world’s largest gang intervention and rehabilitation program and credited him with turning around the lives of thousands of Angelenos. Boyle could not immediately be reached for comment.

Boyle became pastor of Dolores Mission Church in 1986. The parish in Boyle Heights was one of the poorest, serving residents from housing projects such as Aliso Village and Pico Gardens. At the time, the area also had the largest concentration of gang activity in a city where there were hundreds of gangs with thousands of members. Up to nine gangs were active near the parish, according to the mission’s website.

By 1988, Boyle created Jobs for a Future at the mission. The program’s aim was to help men and women transition away from gangs through education, job training and employment. Jobs for a Future eventually evolved into Homeboy Industries and expanded its services to include tattoo removal, housing assistance and substance abuse support, as well as training in jobs such as solar panel installation.

The nonprofit also launched several businesses over the years that have been staffed by formerly incarcerated clients who are enrolled in its various programs. The businesses includes Homeboy Bakery, which supplies products for its Homeboy Farmers Markets, Homeboy Diner and Homegirl Cafe and Catering. It also runs an electronics recycling business.

The nonprofit said its approach to transforming the lives of former gang members has become a blueprint for many other organizations across the U.S. and several countries, including Honduras, Australia and Zimbawe.

Boyle, a member of the Jesuit order for 50 years and a priest for 38 years, has received other major awards such as the California Peace Prize and was inducted into the California Hall of Fame. In 2014, President Obama named Father Boyle a Champion of Change, a recognition by the Obama White House for “people doing extraordinary things to make a difference in their communities.”

The Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony will take place at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time and can be watched here.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.





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