Center for American Progress

Community Violence Intervention: Juan Avila and Garden Pathways

Community Violence Intervention: Juan Avila and Garden Pathways

Juan Avila, chief operating officer at Garden Pathways, recounts the impact mentoring made on the life of one participant in a life-or-death situation.

Part of a Series
We’re saving our city millions of dollars, but most importantly, we’re saving a life, we’re mitigating trauma … and we’re working towards a more vibrant community. Juan Avila

Juan Avila is a chief operating officer at Garden Pathways, an organization that mentors youth and young adults through life-building services in Bakersfield, California. In this video, he shares the story of José, a man who turned away from gun violence to focus on fatherhood.

Since its founding in 1997, Garden Pathways has helped hundreds of Bakersfield residents and mobilized community transformation through its inside out model, which provides comprehensive mentoring services to individuals and families at risk of being affected by violence. Like many community violence intervention programs, Garden Pathways incorporates cognitive behavioral therapy techniques in its mentoring approach to help individuals identify and replace negative coping mechanisms and responses with positive strategies that improve personal and community wellness.

Born and raised in Bakersfield, Juan faced a choice after graduating from college in Los Angeles about whether or not he wanted to return home and give back to his community, which he recognized as being even more torn than it was when he grew up. Now 20 years into his career as a community builder, Juan is proud to be helping his Bakersfield community “become more vibrant and improve the quality of life of residents.”

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Nick Wilson

Senior Director, Gun Violence Prevention

Chandler Hall

Senior Policy Analyst


Matthew Gossage

Events Video Producer

Hai-Lam Phan

Senior Director, Creative

Madalyn Reagan

Video Intern

Ronnie Rivera

Former Senior Motion Graphics Producer, Advocacy

Ashley Joo

Video Intern

Ala Al Sadi

Former Video Producer


Gun Violence Prevention

Our goal is to reduce gun violence by enacting strong gun laws, increasing investment in local solutions, and growing the movement dedicated to this mission.

Explore The Series

Photo shows a young man lighting a candle in the late evening

In America, gunshots rattle communities every 11 minutes. Amid this cycle of tragedy, community violence intervention (CVI) programs are addressing the root causes of violence to end cycles before they can start.

Through collaboration with residents and government officials, CVI programs curb the spread of gun violence by meeting community members where they are and responding to their individual needs. In violence-affected neighborhoods, residents are grappling with trauma and long-standing hardships that fuel the rise in shootings. But CVI programs channel resources back into the community, improving access to needed resources such as education, employment, housing, and health care.

In a nation haunted by the daily occurrence of gun violence, CVI programs provide a path forward—toward healing, unity, and a safer future for everyone.

This series highlights resources on CVI programs and stories from the voices of change on the front lines of America’s gun violence epidemic. These narratives are a reminder of the challenges and successes that outline the effort to save more lives.


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