Former Toronto Dealer Wants Kids to Learn From His Mistakes
A former Toronto gang member and drug dealer who was shot five times this past July while leading a fitness class in Christie Pits park, hopes his life story can inspire kids to avoid a criminal lifestyle.
In an interview with CBC Toronto host Dwight Drummond, Jose Vivar recalled the moments after the shooting.
"As I lay down with bullet holes in my stomach, I'm just thinking, 'Is this it? Am I doomed to this life?' And something in the back of my head said, 'No, that this can't be it. There has to be something more,'" he said.
From criminal to role model
Vivar, who started teaching fitness classes after his release from prison, described his passion for teaching young people the hard truth about gang life. Kids must be taught how to earn their success within the boundaries of the law, he said.
"You don't have to join gangs to be successful, or to have that type of power," said Vivar.
"We've got to teach them other ways to satisfy that need to want and belong."
Vivar said he could have benefited from being put on the right path at a young age.
"I wasn't taught business, I was taught illegitimate business," he said.
"So when I take myself back in time, I think if I were to know the things I know now about legitimate business, if I was taught that when I was 16, my life would have been different."
Although the former gang member might seem like an unlikely role model, Vivar says some kids will relate to his experience.
"If a school principal is talking to a child or talking to a teenager, it's going to go in through one ear, out the other," said Vivar.
"So what the children nowadays need are people who have actually lived that life, but have turned that life around and made something of themselves."
Leaving a positive legacy
Vivar says he still doesn't know who shot him, but is focused on raising his two children and ensuring that he leaves a better legacy than he might have dealing drugs.
"Fitness is very important to me, my writing is very important to me, I'm an aspiring journalist and my family is important to me," he said.
Vivar plans to continue running his fitness business and hopes to found a non-profit gym where he can teach kids how to become trainers. He's also focused on writing and hopes to spread his message through public speaking.
For Vivar, these new, constructive goals bring more than a life of crime ever could.
"Now that I'm doing positive things, the reward that I get from that is way better than any Mercedes Benz I bought," said Vivar.