John went to work for the county probation department as a senior group counselor at the mere age of 21. It was there that he first used group therapy to help inmates make peace with their victims’ families and with their own families. He also sought to guarantee prisoner rights – primarily, to safety, self-expression, physical exercise and personal relationships. Seven years later, John was asked to help start The Foundry, initially a “resting spot” school for kids who had been in jail. Usually, about 50 students, 8th – 12th grade, attend, and another 50-70 are on the waiting list. John was the heart of this school 25 years.
Early in his career at the the Foundry, John obtained a BA in sociology and psychology, and an MA and PPS credential in educational counseling, all from San Jose State University. He says his main education, however, has come from studying with noted anthropologist and shaman Angeles Arrien, from Native American Lakota teachers, from an inmate who inspired him to become vegetarian, and from the Foundry’s kids and their parents. John has also gleaned much from his visits with land-based indigenous people of Africa, Mexico, South America and Russia and from his travels with holy people. “All the holy people I’ve traveled with say our nature is good,” he says. “So if someone does the wrong thing, there is a purpose for their behavior.” John currently works as an Intervention Specialist at the Santa Clara Unified School District, where he helps to change the climate of five schools working with troubled students through group work as well as the teachers and principals. He also leads/directs an Intergenerational Support Group (focusing on grief and trauma) in San Jose for the past 34 years – every other Tuesday, 6:30-10pm, no charge.
[Photo by Francis Sistiague]