Fabian Maciel, 13, is getting financial aid to attend Bishop Mora Salesian High School in the fall.

Fabian Maciel, 13, and LAPD officer Joe Quezada. Photo by Antonio Mejias.
Fabian Maciel, 13, and LAPD officer Joe Quezada. Photo by Antonio Mejias.
Fabian Maciel has big plans for his future. He plans to go to college with a football scholarship, study architecture and graduate, and eventually help his family get out of poverty and subsidized public housing.

But college is still four years away for the 13-year-old Ramona Gardens resident, an eighth grader and a star player on the Lincoln Heights Youth Football Program who is getting financial aid to attend Bishop Mora Salesian High School in the fall.

Born in Los Angeles to immigrant Mexican parents and raised in Watts, Maciel moved with his family to Ramona Gardens when he was 8 years old. “Basically I tried to play football since I got here,” he says. “I started off playing with Lincoln Heights, then started joining other leagues and do as much as I can to stay out of the streets.”

Los Angeles Police Department Officer Joe Quezada, Maciel’s coach on the police-run football program, noticed the boy’s dedication and intervened on his behalf, to help him get into the private, all-boys school in Boyle Heights.

“He’s motivated, he’s driven, and as his coach I could see that he has a lot of potential”, says Quezada, a Community Safety Partnership (CSP) officer assigned to Ramona Gardens. “If he sets his mind to anything it can be achieved, obviously through the proper channels.”

“I’m doing this for my baby sister,” says Maciel, who is attending summer school to raise his GPA average before football practice begins. “She motivates me every day.”

Officer Quezada thinks a structured, stable setting, such as what he might get in a private school, will help bring out the best in Maciel. And the 13-year-old is excited about playing football for the Salesian Mustangs.

“They do have a goods sports program. I’m looking forward to playing with them,” he says.

Officer Quezada acknowledges that family support has been key in the young man’s success, and says that Maciel is a great example to his peers in Ramona Gardens.

“People in this neighborhood know that he’s going to a private school because he’s putting in the effort to bring his 2.8 GPA to a 3.0,” he says. “I think he’ll get there, I don’t think he’s going to have any issues whatsoever”.

Already, Maciel is looking at possible universities down the road, with University of Oregon on his short list.

“He’s got a lot of potential and he’s going to to have a good life if he stays on track and follows his dream,” says Officer Quezada.

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