Orange County partners with former gang member for youth program

Credible Messengers is set to provide at-risk community youth with mentors

Orange County officials are partnering with a former gang member to set up a 'Credible Messengers' initiative, which is aimed at helping children stay away from gang influences.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County has started a new initiative called Credible Messengers, which is the first of its kind in Florida. And they brought in a man whom News 6 introduced about four years ago: Ruben Saldaña.

Saldaña is a former gang member who served prison time, but he’s now committed to helping kids in his community.

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“We were the poison in these communities, and now, we’re coming back, and we’re trying to be the medicine,” Saldaña said.

He has been helping kids in the community for years, working to keep them away from the life he once lived as a gang member.

Saldaña runs a mentorship program called Rucamp Champs. He mentors at-risk children and trains them in MMA fighting, as well as Afro Latin breakdancing.

But he now has a new role as a consultant for Orange County’s Credible Messengers.

Tracy Salem is the deputy director of community and family services for Orange County.

She said Saldaña is the first person they brought on board to help with Credible Messengers and said they like the work he has done to help the community.

Salem said they plan to start by having for Credible messengers in different communities in the county and that the program will help about 25 families at a time.

Ultimately, she said the goal is to refer families to Saldaña, who will then work to connect them with the right mentor.

She said the initiative is in its beginning phases, and they are still working to determine how the referral system will work and how much time a mentor will spend working with a family.

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About the Author:

Lauren Cervantes was born and raised in the Midwest but calls Florida her second home. She joined News 6 in August 2019 as a reporter.