The homicide occurred right in front of Gian Paul Gonzalez’s house.
It was the last straw for his parents, both youth pastors, who decided they needed to take their teenage son out of the crumbling environment around them in Union City, N.J.
Their first attempt at buying a home in a nearby city didn’t go well. A local bank declined their loan application, citing their family income. But a credit union came through for them.
“It was a credit union that didn’t just see my mom and dad as numbers, but chose to say, ‘You know what? You're making a difference in this community, and we honor that, and we want to help you work through that,'” Gonzalez tells the CUNA News Podcast.
If not for the credit union, he doesn't know what would have happened. "It was getting difficult, and there was a lot of gang involvement where we were staying. Who's to say I might not have been sucked up in all that?”
Gonzalez went on to star in basketball at NCAA Division III Montclair State in New Jersey and drew interest from NBA teams. But he passed on a pro contract, deciding instead to dedicate his life to providing opportunities for boys and girls in his hometown who face the same tough choices he did.
Gonzalez teaches ninth-grade history by day, and by night he runs the Hope + Future youth center he founded. There, he shares the same message he delivered to the New York Giants in 2011, fueling their run to a Super Bowl championship, and to countless elite worldwide organizations since: To find true fulfillment, you must go “all in” by throwing your heart and soul into what matters most to you, relishing the trials and tribulations as much as the successes.
Expect him to praise credit unions for continuing to serve people of lesser means.
“I'd encourage them not to stop because for me, the benefits and the impact have been innumerable,” Gonzalez says. “You can't put a price on what it means to have someone believe in you, and the impact it made on my family.”
This CUNA News Podcast episode is the first in a five-part weekly series with GAC speakers and personalities, including: