Many children grow up expecting parents to care for them, protect them, put food in the pantry and provide a comfortable bed. For Maximillian Gold, a senior studying recreation management, this was not the case.
“The beauty of being a child of God is that we all got stories; we all got struggles; we all got our quirks; we all got our personalities,” said Gold. “He wants us to wear that proudly.” Gold spoke about all children of God having different stories before expanding on acceptance, transparency and, most importantly, forgiveness.
What is his mission in life? Gold said his studies in therapeutic recreation are a stepping stone to a larger career. Gold’s passion for prison reform motivates him to promote a system in prisons that can help inmates improve and build a life after prison.
According to Gold, his passion for prison reform started before he was born. It began back in 1994.
Gold’s mother and father lived in different parts of Los Angeles. His mother was a “west LA hippie” who lived on Venice Beach in her van; his father was a gangster who lived in Compton.
“I often think to myself, ‘How did a hippie and a gangster get together?'” said Gold. “It’s a very mismatched relationship.”
His father and mother met through their mutual relationship with drugs and had Maximillian soon after.
In 1997, his mother lost custody due to her battle with drugs and his father was arrested. He is currently serving a life sentence for multiple murders. In June 1999, his mother lost all rights and custody over him, and Gold was placed in a foster family. His foster family adopted him at age four, but for 10 years Gold did not get the parenting every kid needs.
He was starved, beaten and stabbed by his adoptive family. He would go to school, beat up kids and steal their lunch money to eat that day. At age 14, he was deemed a problem. Soon after, he was sent to live in boys home for at-risk juvenile delinquents. A year later, he went to a juvenile corrections facility.
“It was jail,” Gold said. “When you’re the only white kid in the entire jail facility, it’s a culture shock.” But he found the good people in the correctional facility and became part of the culture he found within the walls.
When he turned 18, the system dropped him off at a homeless shelter and essentially told him, “Good luck, make sure you stay in school.” For a year and a half, he was homeless and involved with people on the streets. He went through tough days of being beaten unconscious, getting stabbed and doing the same to others. As time went on, he saw his friends sent to jail, dying of overdoses and being killed.
At 19, he moved into the projects—need-based subsidized government housing. While he lived there, he saw that the projects were not helping people. It always seemed to Gold that the projects were always placed in bad neighborhoods, stacking the odds against those who cannot get out.
He realized that he needed to find a way out of this life and into a better one. Even though Gold wasn’t religious, he knew there could be something more. One day, one of his social workers, who was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, introduced him to the singles’ ward and invited him to church on Sunday.
He met the missionaries and was convinced to come to church. He said at first it seemed uninteresting, but he was inspired by the missionaries’ dedication.
“The missionaries kept on trying, and no one ever really tried, and if they did there was an ulterior motive,” said Gold.
The missionaries did not give up on getting him baptized. On Jan. 17, 2015, Gold officially became a member of the Church. It was hard for him to transition to the Church, but he tried to balance the gospel and the lessons he learned from his childhood.”No matter how lonely or out of place I felt in the Church,” said Gold, “the reason why I stayed was that I made a promise to God.”
During the first semesters of his college education, he found it difficult that many people didn’t seem to understand that there were a variety of students who came from different walks of life. He wanted to do more for those who never experienced the harsh trials of life and help them understand others.
This led him to start a campus event called “All Walks of Life,” which will have different students sharing their experiences with perseverance to help others who may be struggling or who just want to understand. This event is on June 14, in the amphitheater & Plaza Quads Amphitheater Pavilion.
“The biggest thing I learned from the world is to open yourself up to people, talk about your experiences with others,” Gold said. “Be more transparent about yourself with others.”