By Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Staff

In his teen years, Francisco “Cisco” Gallardo joined what has been one of the largest gangs in Denver’s north side. After facing a possible 48 years in prison, he has dedicated his life to undoing the damage he helped cause.

Cisco answers questions about his inspirational background and transforming his leadership through the Livingston Fellowship:

Knowing you just started the Livingston Fellowship Program, how do you envision the program shaping your leadership skills?

I look forward to the Livingston Fellowship exposing me to phenomenal leaders in Denver and spending time with senior Livingston Fellows so I can learn and grow from their experiences. The Fellowship is giving me the opportunity to sharpen some of my tools and gifts as well as exploring new opportunities. Along with developing my leadership skills, the program is also pushing me to interact with different community members and organizations outside of my work.

You have such an inspirational story. Tell us a bit about your background – and how it led you to become the director at Denver’s Gang Rescue and Support Project.

Well my story is a long one. I grew up in Northwest Denver and I was involved in a gang since I was 14 years old. I grew up seeing many traumatizing events, and by the time I was 18 years old, I was faced with 48 years in prison. I realized I was at a crossroads in my life. I had to choose my next road very carefully. With the love and understanding of my community, I was able to make a better choice and, of course, with a little bit of luck, I got sentenced to a community corrections program instead of prison.

I finished high school while living at a halfway house. As I was changing and growing, I was introduced to a program called GRASP. Little did I know that I would be with the same program for 24 years! The most important part of my story? An enemy of my gang invited me to the group not just once, but several times. It goes to show that you never know where your help is going to come from. The main thing is you have to be open to life’s gifts and be prepared to receive them even though you might not understand at that time.

What’s one motivational quote that you live by?

“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.” – Ernesto Che Guervara

What aspect of your professional growth/development are you most excited about?

At this stage in my life, I’m looking to learn how to utilize the wisdom I’ve collected over the years to help impact and cultivate new leaders, as well as forging new ground in the idea of transformational healing – and also make it more accessible in youth through development circles.

Tell us: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

This year, I’m looking forward to building a strong relationship with my class of Fellows. To start my journey and explore the transformational healing and barrio peace movement. As I conduct interviews to see how my plan develops over the year and how that might influence my second-year’s journey.