Program targets gangs

Oct. 15, 2004, midnight | By Danielle Foster | 18 years, 1 month ago

Meeting discussed a program for ESOL students

Teachers, security and staff from the Department of Recreation formed a task force and discussed ways to fund an after-school athletic program that targets ESOL students in an effort to lessen the number involved in gangs. The meeting took place on Wednesday, Oct. 6.

ESOL teacher Charlie Wang sponsored an indoor soccer program three years ago that was popular among ESOL students. Interest was so high that 30 teams were formed. The primary reason for such high turnout was that students were not involved in much else. "ESOL students were not involved in anything. They would come to school, go to class, that's it," said former Blair staff member John Alcoba, who assisted Wang with the program.

José Segura, a security officer at Blair, participated in the program and found it to be a great way to keep kids involved and off the streets. "I wish we would have videotaped them," Segura said. "It's almost like a World Cup Game to these kids. It works. I've seen it, it works."

Wang believes the long-term success of the program is because of what it offers. The point was "to allow ESOL students to play a sport they grew up loving," Wang said. "Because of a language barrier, they miss out on announcements about tryouts and are not able to play [on school teams] for a year."

Now members of the task force would like to expand the program to include other sports and activities, such as 3-on-3 basketball. Segura also suggested having the program extend over the summer, since that is the time when students are most likely to have the least direction and fewer productive things to do. He also proposed introducing middle school students to the program as well. "Kids are coming into Blair, ninth graders, and you can tell [if they've been involved in gangs]," Segura said. "Each year [gang members are] getting younger and younger."

In addition to preventing gang involvement, Alcoba said the program helped student academically and built character. "Kids would not play if they did not come to school," he said. "I created the rules. I had a good relationship with the kids."

There are problems that may keep the program inoperative for at least another year, however. The biggest is funding. Officer Robert Musster of the Department of Recreation pointed out that many other programs went into remission due to a lack of financial support. "This year there are no sports academies because of lack of funding," he said.

Ideas to reduce costs included using parent volunteers and offering to have the names of those who donate money printed on a t-shirt. Fernando Moreno, a counselor, suggested creating a grant application that could be sent to several foundations simultaneously. It was also noted, however, that grants do not usually provide funding for salaries and they are typically given only once. The task force would therefore have to find other ways to compensate staff.

Future meetings on gang intervention and the program are to be held the first Wednesday of every month in the staff lounge at 2:30. The goal for the kick-off date for the program is January.

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Danielle Foster. Danielle is a senior and all she can say is "it's about time". Now 17, driving, and close to completing the Communication Arts Program, she is ready to graduate on June second. This is her last year at Blair though, and she plans to make … More »

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