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Former gang member encourages positive choices

Former Walla Walla Public Schools student Noe Salazar visited Walla Walla High School Thursday to meet with students to discuss how his poor choices and gang affiliations led to a failed high school career and numerous arrests. Salazar’s sister Mireya Vargas, an intervention specialist at Wa-Hi, organized the visit to help students understand the choices they make today have a lasting impact. Salazar met with approximately 300 students during the day. He volunteered to drive here from out-of-state on his day off  and at his own expense to present to students. 
 
“Noe feels so bad for how much he took from the community and now he is willing to do whatever he can to pay back for his mistakes,” Vargas said.
 
Salazar was born in Mexico and migrated to Washington at age five. He grew up in an abusive household and began using drugs and alcohol at a young age. He was fully immersed in the gang lifestyle at age 13. He attended Blue Ridge, Green Park, Garrison, Wa-Hi, and Paine Alternative School. He was also one of the first students to attend the Opportunity Program under the guidance of the late John Matau. He eventually earned a General Education Diploma. 
 
Salazar told students it is a miracle he is still alive. He challenged them to make good choices, get involved in positive activities and work hard in school. He said he makes $9.50 per hour and his employment choices are limited due to his past. However, he said he is thankful to be happily married, employed, in the process of purchasing a house and sober and drug-free. He is also an active volunteer in his home town working with at-risk youth and former prison inmates. Salazar is a participant in the community-based tattoo removal program, INK-OUT. 

WALLA WALLA PUBLIC SCHOOLS • 364 South Park St. • Walla Walla, WA 99362 • Phone: 509-527-3000 • Fax: 509.529.7713

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