Harris County Juvenile Detention Center volunteer helps turn lives around

Kids committing violent crimes seem to be on the rise, but we don't often hear about what's being done to stop it. So, here at FOX 26 we are committed to focusing on showcasing solutions in our new segment FOX 26 in Focus.

Who would have thought steering kids away from a life of crime is as simple as building a relationship with them? One Harris County Juvenile Detention Center volunteer says it truly can be just that easy.

We caught up with Angela Salazar at her Houston area home where the sound of wind chimes, and birds singing could be heard in the tranquility of her backyard, where Salazar sits and writes poetry.

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"United in love is how we should be. Can't you see you're not that different from me? We all live on this Earth and share a similar birth. We were created by the same Heavenly Father," she reads from her latest poems.

They are words she hopes to travel from her paper and into the ears and hearts of kids who have committed crimes and are locked up.

"I started going into juvenile detention centers around six years ago and I also minister at different boys' and girls' homes. My hope is to reach the lost and broken, to give them hope and to give them unconditional love...and then my ministry is called Broken and Mended Ranch," Salazar explains. "I don't yet have the ranch, but I'm hoping to have it. My dream is to actually have a youth ranch for the children, so when they leave juvenile detention, they have a place to go for a year to get shored up, so they can be on firm foundation, learn who they are."

At home, Salazar surrounds herself with positive sayings displayed on her walls, from bible verses to encouraging quotes, and an amazing drawing is displayed on a table. "One of the children that I minister to actually drew this, and I thought it was incredibly beautiful, so I framed it and put it in my living room," she says.

"I have been through so many things in my own life, even as a child. I came from a broken household and that causes so much trauma in children's lives. It caused me, as a teenager, to rebel. I tried all the different things, like alcohol. I tried drugs. I did all kinds of different things that I shouldn't have done," Salazar adds.


She shares her testimony to show kids they can triumph after experiencing trauma. Salazar goes to the juvenile detention center at least once a week.

"There's times I come home, and I'm on my knees praying because it's sad to see them broken, to see them angry," she says, and sometimes they direct their anger at her.

"It takes consistency. Just because they turn you away one time or if they curse at you and call you all kinds of names because that's happened to me, that's happened to me. Consistency is the key. Love is the key, unconditional love," says Salazar. 

Once, when a group of boys refused to listen, she added, well, a melody to poetry. "All I know is I started rapping. I said you think I'm a Barbie doll and I have no clout, but I have clout without a shadow of a doubt because I walk with the King of Kings, Lord or Lords and in him there is no more, no more suffering, no more pain...".

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"I like to go back to Matthew 22. It says we have to love our neighbor. What happened to neighbors getting involved in neighbors' lives and caring what the family is going through?" asks Salazar.  

The mother of two and recent grandmother of a baby boy says it was church hopping with friends that took her off the wrong road. Now, she hopes to steer other kids onto the right path and encourage those who know their worth to help others realize how valuable they are.

"We don't realize we're royalty, and we don't always walk as royalty. We are supposed to rise to royalty through our walk in life. My favorite saying is life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain and I add, with Jesus," Salazar smiles.

Contact the Youth Exchange program at youthexchangeinc@yahoo.com if you would also like to volunteer. You have to first undergo a background check and training.