The Coast News Group
Students in the Libby Lake REACH program write their dreams for the future. The after school program improves students’ grades and school attendance. Photo by Promise Yee

City sets aside $210K for youth programs in gang neighborhoods

OCEANSIDE — City Council approved designating a total of $210,000 to support three youth programs that have a profound impact on local kids who live in gang injunction regions.

The North County Lifeline ASP Youth Development Program in the Crown Heights neighborhood was granted $60,000, Vista Community Clinic REACH Program in Eastside received $70,000 and $80,000 was granted to the REACH Program in Libby Lake on Sept. 10

These after-school programs provide positive adult role models and lessons in life skills, academics, community service, violence and drug prevention to youth who are routinely exposed to gangs and a gang lifestyle.

The students face more risks than most kids their age.

“Students have direct contact through family ties or association with gangs in the neighborhood,” Maria Yanez, neighborhood services management analyst, said.

The after-school programs provide a safety zone for youth in gang injunction regions that are identified as neighborhoods where gang members reside.

The programs aim to steer kids away from gang life by showing them healthy, productive alternatives to the life they witness. The REACH Program also provides workshops for parents.

“We provide students an opportunity for an alternative avenue and support system to steer them away from gang and youth violence,” Yanez said.

“Programs help youth make better decisions and get out of the vicious cycle.”

The youth programs have demonstrated a positive impact on students’ academic achievement and school attendance.

Yanez worked for the Vista Community Clinic REACH Program for nine years prior to her employment with the city.

She said she has witnessed firsthand the academic and personal growth in students who have stayed with the program over time. Their grade point averages rise and aspirations for their future climb higher.

Perhaps most importantly the programs empower kids to express their voice and make a difference in their community. The programs help reduce gangs from the inside out by honing life and leadership skills.

Yanez said empowering youth also has a positive impact on their families and the community, and helps with the end goal of reducing the influence of neighborhood gangs.

“When we empower one person, it empowers a family and trickles out to the community,” Yanez said.

City funds help partially support the North County Lifeline ASP and Vista Community Clinic REACH programs that also rely on grants and donations.