The following was submitted by Norma Parsons of Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma. It was written by Shaune Gallardo, a 2022 Getting Ahead graduate. Of Shaune, Norma writes: “He is now a member of our steering committee and is actively involved with the Staying Ahead group as well as other community groups such as Jackson County Community Health Action Team. He has purchased his home and has attended city council meetings. He is vocal in the community as to the advantages of this program.”

Shaune Gallardo and family/friendsI think that one of the most difficult endeavors that I have ever attempted to accomplish is the overall story of my life. There is so much there that when I look back through the years of my life, I know that, in truth, it could easily become a movie for the big screen; I can even picture the soundtrack of it and what songs would play at what parts. It’s crazy for someone to think on that level about his life, but I really do think that way.

My parents were young when they had me. My mum is Australian and was in an orphanage in Australia before her own mum sent for her and brought her to the states, and my dad is Hispanic (Mexican American). My dad was in the Army at the time of my birth in Havre De Grace, Maryland. My parents divorced just three years later, and life from that point forward took me through a great many challenges as my mum worked two jobs in order to support my baby brother and me.

I grew up headstrong and independent, and I didn’t trust the world around me. In the Bible there is a king named Solomon, who was the wisest man to ever live, and he said, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Studies prove this truth, as by the age of nine, the moral compass of a child is fairly established.

My life was no different. Over the years, I moved from place to place, and I dealt with a drug and alcohol addiction that led me to accidentally kill my best friend at the age of 17. For the better part of my life, I have been through the revolving doors of the judicial system and have been in and out of jail and prison.

Forty-three years is how long it took me to come to the end of myself and completely submit my life over to Jesus Christ—43 years of heartache and pain, chaos and confusion. Everything I touched I destroyed, damaged, or left in ruins.

But in 2018, I went into a discipleship program that paved the way to, in my eyes, the greatest turnaround in history. The transformation that took place and the things that God opened my eyes to have deeply been carved on my heart. He has shown me the possibilities of the impossible and has done more in four or five years than I could ever do in the first 43. Today, I have seen the destructive cycle end with my marriage, and I have slowly begun to see the shift begin to take place in the lives of my children.

We have come to a place in our lives where we are seeing true freedom and the ability to overcome each and every hurdle that we face in life because of the many different tools that Christ has given us to assist us along the way. I promise that what I write here will never be enough to fully convey the enormity of my life nor the situations that I have been brought out of, nor can I convey the greatness of all that I have seen and come through in life and where He has placed me.

I thank God for the programs that I have gone through, such as Adult & Teen Challenge of Arkansas and Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World. When I say that there is a movie in the making, I promise that it isn’t just a dream.

The aha! Process Getting Ahead program engages investigators (participants) in exploring the realities of poverty in their communities and how those realities impact them. They also explore the causes of poverty, the “hidden rules” of economic class, and ways to develop resources and build stable lives. Getting Ahead graduates build relationships across class lines and often join the decision-making tables in their communities.