Kent Mendoza was born in Mexico, but migrated to the United States at the age of six with his mom. He grew up in Pico Union District, a densely populated, low-income and immigrant community in Los Angeles County where at an early age was exposed to the realities of gangs, drugs and violence. Lacking fundamental resources as an immigrant and a father figure, he was quickly influenced by his local gang and at the age of 14, joined the gang. Kent was incarcerated and served time in probation camp, but at the age 17 was trialed as an adult and faced a prison life sentence. During his incarceration, he met Scott Budnick, the person who gave him hope and the confidence in changing his life around. Although he faced an adult sentence, he was instead sent to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) for 7 years. Kent served a total of 5 years and during his last year of incarceration he spend time reading books, educating himself, and most importantly; preparing himself for his release. He was honorably discharged from DJJ and avoided deportation.
Upon release, Kent had a fundamental understanding of the harm he had caused and was now extremely motivated and committed to live a different lifestyle. He began volunteering at the ARC, speaking to bring awareness to the change that is possible for at risk youth and working directly with the formerly incarcerated. His participation and willingness to be of service opened new opportunities for him. In 2014, Kent began working at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. He exceled within the Chamber from an intern to a full staff member, thus he proved that his second chance was real. While working at the Chamber on smart justice issues, he successfully completed the 2015 Commission Training Program offered by Wally Marks Leadership Institute from the Liberty Hill Foundation. He was awarded a certificate of acknowledgement by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl. Kent has also been to the White House and has published an article through the Huffington Post.