Iota Beta Alumnus Making Dreams a Reality

Richard Lazaro

Richard Lazaro with one of his NSA students on college signing day.

“You don’t have to come from something to be someone or have a positive impact on someone’s life.”

Imagine a child skipping school to dig through trashcans to find food for himself and his siblings. Placed in foster care at age seven and living in 12 homes by age 18, Richard Lazaro (California State-Fresno, Iota Beta ’10) is the product of drug and alcohol dependent parents and homelessness. Despite his environment, he attended college and is well on his way to achieving his dream.

Lazaro was recognized as the 2014 Robertson Award Most Outstanding Undergraduate at the Baltimore Convention where he was able to share his story and goals with brothers in attendance. Four years later he opened his own gym, is involved with the United States Olympic program, and is committed to providing opportunity to children in the foster care program and individuals experiencing homelessness.

Richard Lazaro has lived in Fresno, California, his entire life, but his experiences in the city look different than most.

His parents were heavily involved in drugs and alcohol, leaving them unable to care for their children. When they were around, they were usually under the influence which resulted in neglect as well as mental and physical abuse toward his siblings and himself. There were many instances where he would go a week or two without seeing his parents at all, so Lazaro had to grow up quickly to provide for the rest of the family.

He would wake up early in the mornings and skip school to dig through trashcans to find food and cans to cash in for money. This became his lifestyle and daily routine, and he thought this was the norm.

When he was seven years old, Child Protective Services picked up the Lazaro children placing them in the foster care system. Between the ages of seven and 18, he lived in 12 different foster homes.

Exposed to drugs and violence and heavily involved with a gang, he constantly found himself in trouble and lacked a support system.

Then he was placed into a foster home in Clovis, California, a suburb of Fresno, in eighth grade. This provided a culture change for him where he received loving support and the opportunity to get involved in sports. Lazarro liked sports, but never had the financial means to participate. Recognizing this need, staff members and coaches at Clovis East High school assisted by covering costs for his athletic camps, uniforms, and equipment.

His involvement in athletics served as an outlet for his energy and kept him away from gangs, off the streets, and out of trouble. Being a member of sports teams and co-curricular activities also taught him life lessons such as teamwork and the importance of hard work, helping him become strong in both body and mind.

Lazaro emancipated from the foster care system the day after his high school graduation, and he was instantly homeless, sleeping on park benches and couch-surfing with friends.

During this time, he was accepted into and started attending California State University at Fresno but soon stopped attending due to his circumstances. He hadn’t given up on his dream of obtaining his college degree, but survival was his main focus.

He used the next two years to connect with programs and mentors who dedicated their time and efforts to help him get back on his feet. With their support, he was able to re-enter college, get a job, and find a place to live, but he was still lacking the life and leadership skills he knew he needed to become the successful person he wanted to become.

Then came PIKE. During Lazaro’s time in the chapter, he learned soft skills and business acumen such as organization, time management, public speaking, budgeting, and how to lead an organization. He dove right in, serving as community service chairman, attending PIKE University events, and serving the chapter as president for two terms. During his time in the chapter, he also learned the importance of service to the community, and he shared his passion for the foster care and homeless communities with his brothers.

In addition to his involvement with the chapter, Lazaro worked full time and continued to work toward his goal to open a gym to provide services to low income and foster youth. He started his brand, Nemesis Sports Academy (NSA) to provide service to the community and implementing a nonprofit component to award scholarships and present opportunities to junior high and high school students. He also donated his time by coaching and volunteering in addition to giving out-of-pocket financial assistance to jump start his vision and goals and build NSA.

“What I didn’t know when I joined PIKE was that it would provide me with the greatest gift I would ever receive,” Lazaro remarked during his award acceptance speech. “Being a member of Pi Kappa Alpha provided me with the family I’ve been looking for since I was a child. PIKE has provided me with the men I have the privilege of calling brothers. Being a brother and a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha family has meant everything to me.”

During the speech, Lazaro shared his biggest ambition with the audience. “My ultimate goal is to open my own strength and conditioning gym, offering scholarships for youth in foster care so they have the opportunity to become strong in body in mind.”

With patience, hard work, and help from his PIKE network, his dream came true in August 2018. He opened his own facility, and he is now in the process of implementing the nonprofit component of the gym, Nemesis Student Athletes, that will provide scholarships to low income and foster youth.

Before opening his own facility, the gym was being operated in a rental facility, and just last year, he was able to graduate 16 seniors from his program, six of whom graduated with scholarships. NSA has helped over 150 student athletes since its inception, and five athletes have made Team USA in their respective sports. One of those athletes, Jordan Cantrell, is currently the top 85-kilogram Olympic Weightlifter in the country.

In addition to operating the gym, Lazaro works full-time as a case manager for Aspiranet, a nonprofit organization with the mission of providing children, youth, and families with a foundation of support and services so they can succeed at home, at school, and in their communities. He also serves as the chapter advisor for Iota Beta Chapter and is in the process of writing an autobiography about his experiences growing up in the foster care system.

To learn more about Nemesis Sports Academy, visit their website at www.nemesissportsacademy.com.