WeissCrax: Yes Way, Jose

Jose Lozano, middle, flanked by San Marcos High teacher Jeremy Vaa, left, and Santa Barbara lawyer Joe Howell, right. Lozano was the keynote speaker at a recent fundraiser for CADA.

Rodney Dangerfield, the late comedian, had that great quip:

“I went to a fight the other night …. and a hockey game broke out!”

Same thing here …

Recently attended a fundraiser for the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (CADA) and was ‘blown away’ by the most incredible sports memorabilia collection on the planet!

Chad Dreier, host of a recent fundraiser for CADA, welcomes Santa Barbara Bank & Trust’s George Leis (l) and Ed Birch (r).

Jerseys and uniforms of legends … baseball cards like Honus Wagner’s (valued over $2.3 mil) … Babe’s bat plus recently-purchased Kirk Gibson’s famous lumber used to blast the Dodgers to their last World Series Championship….rare photos … MVP trophies and championship rings …

Pretty much everything.

And all totally overwhelming in a most spectacular way.

Gracious hosts, Chad and Ginny Dreier and son, Doug, opened up their private museum – The Dreier Collection – for community rock star, Bob Bryant, in raising critical $$ funds to underwrite costs for CADA’s February 19, 2011 Amethyst Ball, benefitting the Daniel E. Bryant Treatment Center.

All would prove an awesome ‘back drop’ for the main ticket of the evening … an epic story about one overcoming great odds and great challenges to savor victory “from the agony of defeat.”

Tonight’s real superstar was none of the many legends featured here from yesteryear.

Amazingly, it was a young local boy with no real sports resume … to the surprise of the 100 community “movers & shakers” in the audience, as The Kid moved slowly to the podium…

Bob Bryant helped organize the event as a benefit for the Daniel E. Bryant Treatment Center.

“My name is Jose Lozano and I want to tell you about my life … if you’ll listen. I’m 16, and a student at San Marcos High School. There was a time not too long ago, that I wouldn’t have been able to stand up here, speak to you or even look you in the eye… ”

Born in Mexico to a dad who dropped out of school early to work as a laborer and to a Mom who – Jose would later say – “wasn’t really interested in him,” the family moved to Santa Barbara eight years later.

Within four quick years, young Lozano was on his way to becoming another sad statistic: drugs at age 12 — first weed, then harder stuff …soon a gang member … later, a serious drug problem.

Not a pretty picture….

ENTER JOE HOWELL … a local lawyer and community leader, who met Lozano when Jose, a 6th grader at Adams School, gave the keynote speech at a press conference for Computers for Families, a innovative program created in the 1990s by Partners in Education, an established business leaders-educators
organization led by Ben Romo at the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

Howell was intrigued and through Jose’s principal, he had an opportunity to later get to know Lozano. A friendship developed, though Lozano claims that he initially “really wasn’t committed to it.”

“But, Joe never turned his back on me,” he added.

Even when things got worse– like two years ago on Christmas Eve.

That’s when Lozano’s dad “dropped the bombshell” — the grim news he had just been diagnosed with a terminal illness — just around the same time his own Jose had been arrested for shoplifting.

Jose had a lot of stuff going on …

“Teen Court was relentlessly calling me, my Mentor Joe was concerned. I decided to get it over with,” he said.

That’s when he decided to “step up to the plate”…

He quit drugs cold-turkey, finished the program for his crime. Teen Court later offered him an internship that he gladly accepted.

The Dreiers' sports memorobilia collection is one of the largest in the United States.

Jersey's from sports legends Mickey Mantle, left, and Lew Alcindor, right, are on display.

And he hasn’t looked back …

These days Lozano heads to Howell’s law office almost every day after school to do homework.

It’s paying off with C’s and sometimes B’s, even in his college prep classes.

Now at 16, Lozano is totally committed to a positive lifestyle — attending school; working part-time jobs to survive and volunteering with Teen Court, the Police Activity League (PAL) and The Fund for Santa Barbara, to name a few.

Somehow he stays focused, even with the additional responsibility of caring for his two younger siblings.

Lozano’s game plan for success?

“I have a mentor in Joe to support me. He is the reason I stayed in school. He is the reason I go on. I don’t want to disappoint him after all he has done for me. Teen Court also gave me purpose; keeps me off the streets and taught me to think a different way,” he says.

Young Jose Lozano, for the very first time, has a bright future with dreams of becoming an attorney.

“Jose and I are on a journey — many high points, a few low ones and lots of detours,” says Mentor Howell, “Jose is a great kid with a huge heart and unlimited potential. There are, literally, thousands of ‘Joses’ in our area, some with far greater challenges. Unfortunately there are, at best, only hundreds of mentors or adults devoting time to these kids.

If folks could take a few minutes to check out mentoring programs through groups like CADA, they would quickly learn how much of a positive impact their modest time commitment can have on local kids.”

And when Lozano was done with his delivery, the standing ovation confirmed he had just “hit it out of the park.”

Yes, just like The Babe.

And Kirk.

And …