The Coast News Group

Police set to launch youth mentorship program

OCEANSIDE — Early next year police will launch the Oceanside Youth Partnership Program, in which officers mentor small groups of at-risk teens. The unique proactive program aims to introduce teens to a variety of positive experiences and build their rapport with neighborhood police.

The program is modeled after the San Marcos Sheriff RESPECT Project. Both mentorship programs  introduce kids to healthy alternatives to juvenile delinquency, gang involvement and substance abuse.

“Enforcement is a short-sighted solution to a problem,” Oceanside Police Lt. Taurino Valdovinos said. “The real solution is finding the core of the problem for drugs, gangs, whatever it is.”

Oceanside officers will mentor small groups of five or fewer students and they will meet up with weekly for 12 weeks. Sessions include a recreational activity that officers and teens take part in, followed by a values-based lesson and snack time featuring a gourmet dish.

Lessons will focus on  personal responsibility, ethics, service, perseverance, education, courage, trustworthiness and discipline.

Fields trips are planned to local universities and the Medical Examiner’s Office. Teens will take the Beyond The Caution Tape tour where they have the opportunity to observe a live autopsy.

The activities are designed to be fun, different and bridge greater awareness.

The program is set to start its first session in March 2018, and serve 12 kids. Students will be selected through school, youth programs, city Neighborhood Services and Juvenile Probation referrals.

Valdovinos is spearheading the program. He said plans are for officers and kids to stay in touch after the 12 weeks. He hopes teens who complete the program will serve as future program mentors.

“It’s about building relationships with them, so when they see a cop they know we’re people like anybody else,” Valdovinos said.

Valdovinos has seen firsthand how one-on-one mentoring can turn a teen around. The program will provide two sessions annually and mentorship to two dozen teens a year.

Currently the Police Department is waiting on word of a $75,000 COPS grant application for program funding. The annual grant supports community policing efforts and field initiated projects. News on the grant is expected in late September.