SAN MARCOS — The San Marcos Sheriff’s Station, which founded the highly successful Respect Project for high-risk youth, says they are hoping to expand the project by the Spring of 2021 in order to serve even more kids in the community.
The RESPECT Project was founded in 2014 by a group of four deputies, two of them, Dustin Nelson and Todd Baker, are still involved in the program.
RESPECT, which stands for Respect, Ethics, Strength, Perseverance, Education, Courage and Trustworthiness, is an after-school program that serves middle school and high school students from all over San Diego County.
Ruben Medina, a sergeant with the sheriff’s department who supervises the department’s juvenile services groups, told The Coast News that the 16-week program focuses on mentorship and exposing the kids to opportunities they may not usually be exposed to.
They bring presenters from the business world, higher-learning educators, entrepreneurs, reformed people who have been through the system but have found a way out, while also providing mentorship and social services. We don’t just focus on the youth themselves, but we focus on the family as a whole,” Medina said.
After the 16 weeks, deputies continue to provide mentorship to the students. Many of the graduates of the program come back to help the other classes.
Mayor Rebecca Jones told The Coast News that the city attributes its consistently low crime rate to these youth intervention programs.
“The RESPECT Project is one of our largest efforts. It has been so successful in helping kids see their value and how they can connect with their community and be more involved. It’s important that they have these mentors and that they also have these connections to law enforcement,” Jones said.
The program, which is funded by grants and realignment funds, expects to open a RESPECT Project building in San Marcos.
San Marcos also takes part in Camp LEAD (Leadership, Equity, Access and Diversity), a three-day high school camp funded by school districts that want to participate.
Camp LEAD immerses deputies with faculty and students and is designed to foster leadership skills and improve understanding and respect between students, as well as develop connections between students and law enforcement.
“If we can change the trajectory for some of the kids and keep them out of the system while building a partnership and while changing their view of law enforcement it’s a huge win,” Medina said.