Lost and found: A student’s story of redemption

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Patrick Elizondo, kinesiology freshman and a kinesiology work study student, cheers on students running in kinesiology Instructor Dawn Brooks’ physical conditioning class March 8. Elizondo was helping Brooks make sure the students were completing their runs up and down the stairs of Chance Academic Center and the parking garage. Photo by Brianna Rodrigue

Kinesiology freshman spent 15 years in prison.

By Alison Graef

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

Patrick Elizondo, 37, kinesiology freshman and president of the K-Club, was incarcerated at age 19 for multiple counts of robbery and illegal possession of guns. He is now a full-time student and work-study in the kinesiology program.

Elizondo grew up in Northside ISD with his mother, stepfather and siblings.

“I was still involved with the negative, and before you know it the negative took over,” he said.

Elizondo’s father, formerly enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, worked as a painter at Kelly Air Force Base until he was fired in the late 1980s. After that, Elizondo’s mother, a licensed vocational nurse, became the only consistent source of income for the family.

Elizondo’s father was an alcoholic who would become physically and verbally abusive to his mother when drunk. Elizondo’s mother and father divorced when he was 6 years old.

“Having him taken away really affected me, ” Elizondo said. “Just as kids wondering if it was our fault. Then, missing my father, I started acting up in school.”

At age 13, Elizondo joined a local gang, the Klan. Most of the other members were teenagers, including friends, cousins and other neighborhood youth, he said. With the Klan, he participated in gang parties and drive-by shootings. After high school, he became involved with a different gang, the Klicksters.

One year after graduating from Marshall High School, Elizondo’s police record started. 

He was found in possession of an unlicensed gun. Two months later, while still on probation, he was found in possession of two more unlicensed guns.

Four hours before the end of his probation for the second offense, July 16, 1999, Elizondo was apprehended and arrested for participating in aggravated robbery of three convenience stores.

Elizondo was charged with two counts of aggravated robbery and incarcerated in Bexar County Jail with a bail of $100,000. After one month, he was also charged with a third count of aggravated robbery and the possession of two more unlicensed guns. His bail was increased to $166,000.

“My mother wanted to get me out, but I said no because I knew at that point, I was going to be sent to prison,” Elizondo said.

On Feb. 12, 2000, at age 19, Elizondo was sentenced to 20 years with 10 years before parole. Elizondo was transferred to the Garza West Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections in Beeville.

“I continued to be a knucklehead,” he said.

Knowing he had years of prison time in front of him, he made no effort to change his behavior. He assaulted and threatened staff members and was found in possession of contraband. He witnessed stabbings, beatings and violations of people’s property.

“But I still didn’t listen, because my mentality was that I had to do 10 years regardless, so I didn’t care,” he said.

Three years into his prison time, Elizondo assaulted a staff member and was placed in administrative segregation, a confined area reserved for confirmed gang members and inmates who pose a threat to the general population. He remained there for two years.

“I was only allowed out of my cell for one hour every day,” Elizondo said. “You are confined to four walls that have no windows to look outside. … I only had my radio to keep me entertained. … I was lost for a while.”

In his second year of administrative segregation, Elizondo was called to the chaplain’s office to receive bad news. He was told his father was in the hospital and not expected to live. Two days later, his sister visited to inform him their father had died from cirrhosis.

“It affected me a lot because I was not able to attend my father’s funeral, nor could I be there to console my family,” Elizondo said. “I didn’t have anyone to really talk to. … I held it all inside.”

In 2005, Elizondo was moved to closed custody, one level closer to rejoining the general population. It was that year Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck. The power in the facility went out for five days, during which time the conditions were so hot and humid that paint peeled from the walls and water could be flicked from the floors.

“It was so hot that people were cutting and trying to hang themselves just to get out,” he said.

Shortly after the hurricane, Elizondo was released to medium custody for a year before returning to the general prison population. In 2012, he completed a college prep class and started taking classes at Trinity Valley Community College.

“After my 12th year, I got tired of being a knucklehead,” Elizondo said.

After 15 years in prison, Elizondo came up for parole.

“To my surprise, I made it,” he said. “I was staying out of trouble, taking classes. Those were all positive signs to them that I was rehabilitating myself.”

Elizondo was transferred to treatment facilities in which he was to go through six months of a rigorous behavioral program before being released to his home.

“Anything you do wrong, down to the expression on your face, they could revoke your parole and send you back,” Elizondo said. “Eleven days before I was supposed to come home, I was caught with a cell phone. I was given an extra 45 days.”

On March 13, 2015, Elizondo finally came home to San Antonio.

“The first thing I did when I got home — you would think I would have learned — I called up old friends to have a party at my house. We drank and barbecued. I wasn’t supposed to be outside.”

On parole, Elizondo was monitored with an electronic tracker and confined to his home for 14 months except to report to parole and attend mandatory substance abuse classes, peer support sessions and an outpatient treatment program.

In August 2015, he began his first semester at this college. Because of his robbery charges, he discovered he could not get certified as an EMT, so he chose to major in kinesiology. He said he wanted to do well and use his life to help others.

“After being locked up all those years and then having the opportunity to be released, … I thought of those guys that I had left behind, some who were younger than me, who are never going to get out of what they’ve done,” Elizondo said, “knowing that if they had a second chance to get out they would do better.”

Elizondo chose kinesiology because it would give him an outlet to positively impact youth.

“I wanted to use my background to reach youth who were lost like I was, to give them a sense of hope and a better direction than I had,” he said.

Elizondo became heavily involved with a local church, Last Chance Ministries, after meeting his girlfriend. With the church, he volunteer- coached T-ball and youth basketball and got involved with the outreach team to deliver food, clothing and the Christian message the homeless.

On Aug. 27, 2016, while attending a church retreat in Leakey, Elizondo was baptized in the Frio River.

“That’s when doors started opening for me,” he said.

Elizondo applied for a work-study position in the kinesiology program and met with college President Robert Vela and Dr. Lisa Alcorta, vice president of student success.

“According to Dr. Vela, in the eight years he’s been here, usually an application like mine would be dismissed,” Elizondo said. “But he gave me a second chance. … Later I received a call from Dr. Vela that I was accepted, and it was a piece to add to my testimony.”

Elizondo is now a full-time student and works in the kinesiology program under facility manager Linda Casas.

Casas said she noticed Elizondo during his first semester while he was in the K-Club. He and a few other students started helping Casas with daily cleaning, laundry, and setup and takedown of equipment for classes.

“He took it upon himself to do community service by helping out in the kinesiology department,” Casas said. “It really helped us out that semester. I was shorthanded and he did this without pay. … He helps without any hesitation or any ‘Aw, man, I don’t want to do that!’ I never have seen that attitude in Patrick.”

Casas said Elizondo has been open about his past since he came to the program.

“You meet people and you never would know that they’ve been incarcerated, but he’s open about it,” Casas said. “And around here I don’t think it upsets anybody. If he is ready to talk about it and say, ‘Hey, this is what I’ve done,’ then I think that’s an indication that he has moved on from that.”

“Everyone loves him here, and they respect him,” Casas said. “He’s a hard worker — he really is. The respect and hard work he shows, it really shows he’s moved on.”

Casas said Elizondo is a role model and has a powerful story to tell. She hopes he will use his experience to reach people who are struggling.

“I tell him he will do good,” Casas said. “He needs to finish school. He is here for a reason. It’s not going to be easy, but we help him out. We tell him he needs to finish school and move on and help other people.”

As he begins a new chapter in his life, Elizondo said he has chosen to cut off the negative influences from his past.

“All I do now is spend time with my family and church,” he said. “I don’t communicate with old acquaintances who are still up to no good. If I see someone trying to make a change, I will communicate with them and share the word of God with them.”

Elizondo said he is not sure what sport he wants to coach yet, but he is thankful for the opportunity to do good with his life.

“I was given a second chance, and I said to myself I’m going to make the best of this chance”, Elizondo said, “not only for myself, but for my family and the people I left behind.”

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3 Comments

  1. Brenda Ortiz on

    This just goes to show that with God all things are possible. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been but rather where you’re going. Like our Pastor has taught us. Don’t look behind unless it’s only to see how far you’ve come. I give God all the Praise, Honor & Glory for working in Patrick’s life and molding him into the amazing Man of God he is today. I’m so proud of you Patrick. I love you. ❤🙏✝

  2. It brought tears to my heart.
    I would sure love to meet Mr. Elizondo, to make his acquaintance and talk about GOd’s Love and Mercies. I was drawn to the story because I recognize the staircase the students were running up, and I was thinking to myself to use those same stairs to get in shape again.

    Only GOD can calm and change anyone to give peace and hope like he does in many peoples story. I don’t have such a story but I have been experiencing His Love throughout my life. Thank you for the testimony and the blessings of passion of wanting to give back according to the Will of GOD.

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