“360”

Ron Wysinger success story as told to Matt Schumake (Groupon staff writer)

“It’s not normal for people to do a 360,” says Interrupter Ron Wysinger, of Oakland, California. For people to completely turn their lives around and keep walking forward, Ron says, it requires a lot of time, a little love, and the right tools.

[Photo by Justine Quart.]

One successful interruption, Ron says, began on “30-Something Avenue.” Two rival gang members were arguing about turf, and one of them was shot in the back. “I knew the guy that got shot, and my guy knew the man that shot him.”

Ron and the other interrupters brought the two men together and helped them resolve the conflict. “They were scared of each other, but they both wanted to end it,” he adds.

cure_violence_partnership_bannerThrough Cure Violence, Ron helped them find jobs in the community. He checks up with them frequently to make sure they don’t revert to the gang lifestyle. “It takes time,” he adds. “It’s really hard for someone to do a 360, but we try to give them the tools that will allow them to do it.”

“We’ve been there,” he says, reflecting on his childhood. According to Ron, growing up without a father meant growing up without guidance. He got attention by getting into trouble, and he frequently went to jail for doing what the other kids expected him to do. “You start to think the guys in jail are your family,” he says. “But if you knew better, you’d do better.” And so Ron tries to lead the kids in his neighborhood down a different path.

He knows they start to think with clear heads when they get sent to prison. “They start to realize they can turn around,” he says, “but when they get out, their friends are waiting with a bunch of drugs. That’s how they show they love them.” And so Ron tries to interrupt the cycle. He talks to them, takes them out to eat, and provides them with the opportunity to work, all with the hope that they will continue thinking with clear heads while moving in the right direction.

– Matt Schumake