Pete Contreras grew up in the inner city of Los Angeles, California. His parents were married for about four years before they got a divorce. Pete and his brother lived with his dad and his mom soon remarried. In 1970, while only 7, Pete’s mom and half brother were murdered by his mom’s new husband who also took his own life. This one event had an incredibly negative impact on his life as he not only lost his mom, but he also became an extremely hurt and anger filled boy. Pete’s pain and anger often led to fighting and violence.
During his elementary school years it was being involved with sports that helped him to somewhat stay out of trouble. However, during his jr. high and high school years as his rage continued to grow he began using drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain. Soon Pete found himself enrolled at Pacific Christian High School. While preparing to graduate and having to share his plans for the future with the student body he said, “I don’t know if God is real or if I am a Christian, but if He is real I will find Him.”
During the summer of 1982, after graduating from high school, Pete met Jesus Christ at a camp. His family did not understand his new beliefs. For a Hispanic male to leave the Catholic Church was a terrible thing. As a result he was asked to leave the house. Pete left home with little in his pocket, but he had a dream. Part of that dream was to graduate from college. God proved His faithfulness to Pete by providing for his needs and he soon graduated from college. God brought mentors into Pete’s life who discipled him and showed him the ropes of urban ministry. It was while working in the housing projects in Long Beach, CA for four years that God gave Pete a heavy burden for street kids and their families. This was when he made a commitment to serve the urban poor.
After further training in urban youth work in Hartford CT, Pete returned to the west coast with his wife Julie to help start a new church and reach out to the street youth in East San Diego. This led to a dream to start a Midnight Basketball League (MBL) where he could reach street young adults and empower them to become responsible, successful members of the family, community and society as a whole.
Presently Pete works with High Five America reaching high-risk youth in the inner city of San Diego. HFA provides a comprehensive structured program designed as an alternative to criminal activities for high risk, young adult males 17 to 25 years of age living in the inner city. The Midnight Basketball program involves an NBA style league with games played between 10:00p.m. and 2:00a.m., the hours of highest crime occurrence. All participants are required by contract to participate in pre-game workshops dealing with such issues as: pre-employment training and job placement; continuing education through G.E.D., junior college, trade school or university; health related issues including sexually transmitted diseases; violence and conflict resolution. Participants are assigned a case manager who provides guidance toward a meaningful and responsible lifestyle. Over 400 youth have participated in Midnight Basketball in the past 2 years. None of those participants have been arrested for a crime while involved with the program.
Director of Community Service
HIGH FIVE AMERICA
10455 Pomerado Rd.
San Diego, CA 92131
619.536.3211 ext. 112
After ten years of local church youth ministry where Benny was used by God to grow two youth ministries (one from 18 to 200 and another from 20 to 700), God led Benny to begin Pacesetters International. Pacesetters is a non-profit organization dedicated to reaching this generation for Christ and envisioning leaders to more effectively lead today’s youth. Benny’s passion is to see revival flood our nation and the world. As an organization, Pacesetters International is committed to helping people live life at a higher level in God by imparting and renewing their spiritual passion. Benny says, “our objective of equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry is accomplished through three avenues:
1. Cross generational church revival meetings
2. Mobilizing Christians through short term missions- “Ignite the Nations”
3. Crusades and Conferences”
Pacesetters International is also committed to networking with organizations which are serious about building God’s Kingdom as opposed to their own. Presently Pacesetters partners with Generation Jesus, a ministry which focuses on rallying young leaders who share strategies for impacting middle schools, high schools and university campuses for Christ.
For more information about Benny Perez and Pacesetters International, please write or call:
1309 8th Street #404
Marysville, WA 98270
ALEXIE M. TORRES
Alexie M. Torres is the Founder and Executive Director of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice. Founded in 1994, this youth development ministry engages young people in the process of faith development for peace and social justice. Through the ministry, Ms. Torres is involved in community struggles for housing, economic development, community policing, environmental justice, community arts, education and health issues.
A national speaker at churches, organizations and universities, she has spoken on issues of peace and social justice as they relate to the spirituality of youth and community development. She has presented at Fordham University, NY, Middlebury College, VT and Harvard University, MA. She has also shared her message with the Alianza de Ministerios Evangelicos Nacionales (AMEN), the Hispanic Association of Bilingual Bicultural Ministries (HABBM), the Latino Pastoral Action Center, Youth and Latinas in Ministry programs, and the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). She has been a National Speaker for the American Bible Society and has written for Sojourners Magazine.
Ms. Torres has been a part of the founding of the Fountain for Youth in Manhattan and its Communities of Faith Council, the El Puente National Association and the Shepherd’s Place Catholic Youth Center of Yonkers, NY. She is a member of the PAX Christi International Peace Movement and a Board Member of the Latino Pastoral Action Center.
Ms. Torres resides in the Bronx River Section of the Bronx, her childhood home as well as the location of her ministry.
Youth Ministries for Peace & Justice
1372 Stratford Ave.
Bronx, NY 10472