Peers unite to help others navigate the influences of life
Published in the Sept. 16-29, 2015 issue of Morgan Hill Life
By Marty Cheek
In 2007, Dori Prado’s daughter faced one of the struggles that challenge many teenagers. The 14-year-old girl confessed to Prado she had started smoking marijuana. Prado grew scared about the drug use and started blaming the friends her daughter was hanging out with for influencing her life in this direction. After some soul searching, she decided to give up the judgment and find a way to help the young people in the Morgan Hill community.
Dori told her father, Steve Prado, a one-time heroin addict who had turned his life around and became an alcohol and drug counselor, about the situation. The two decided to put on a workshop at Sobrato High School. Steve went to Dori’s daughter’s classroom to talk to the students… but it didn’t seem to be enough.
Dori then came up with the idea of putting on a friendly barbecue at Morgan Hill’s Community Park and inviting her daughter’s teenage friends to come and discuss how to face together life challenges such as drugs, gangs and prison that many young people encounter.
“We thought we’d have about 15, 20 kids. We had 75 people come that year,” Dori recalled. “It really inspired me to do it again. Right before that first year, my heart did soften about these kids. And I was thinking: what kind of homes do they come from? I know I’m trying to do the best for my daughter, and still I feel she’s out of control, right? What kind of homes are these kids coming from? Do they have the support at home?”
That park barbecue evolved into a community outreach event that has grown in popularity with hundreds of local young people and families. They gathered every October at either Community or Galvan parks to listen to the stories of young people who have overcome the temptations of drugs, alcohol and gangs, or deal with abuse or depression.
The 9th annual Living Above The Influence event will be held Oct. 10 at the Community and Cultural Center’s plaza.
“Living Above the Influence has really evolved into a community event that gathers resources for the community and gets speakers to give their testimonies that are encouraging and motivating,” Dori said. “It’s real life. These are things that are happening in our community youth and adults. A mother losing her kids to the system because of her own drug addiction. How does she overcome that? We do whatever we can to draw in the community.”
This year, bags of groceries will be given to the first 100 attendees. There will also be entertainment from the Mexican-America Azteca Dancers, rap singers, and poetry readings from young people. To make the day an extra fun celebration, participants can also win raffle prizes such as tickets to Gilroy Gardens Theme Park.
“Someone asked me, ‘Isn’t it like you’re trying to bribe the people to come?’ and I say, ‘Absolutely, I want them to come. I want them to hear these stories,’” Dori said. “And hopefully it touches their heart and helps them to make changes in their life if they’re struggling with those issues. And if they’re not struggling but they know somebody who is, maybe they can help that person out.”
Among the nearly 40 resource agencies that will be available for participants to meet is the nonprofit group Advent Youth Ministries which runs two homes in Morgan Hill for teenage boys and girls to stay at while they heal their lives. At the Living Above The Influence last year, the stories told were so powerful that a boy who was hooked on heroin and prescription pills sought help from Advent Youth Ministries, Dori said.
Living Above The Influence evolved a spin-off program to help young people develop life skills.
After the second year’s event in 2008 grew to 125 participants, Morgan Hill Recreation Coordinator Chiquy Mejia called Dori and asked if she might help bring a similar program to the Teen Center at the Centennial Recreation Center. At first, Dori was hesitant.
But she soon found herself working with the CRC staff to establish the “Chill Out” program where young people got an opportunity to hear the stories of people much like them who faced and overcame struggles with alcohol, drugs and gangs.
“The kids were very, very interested in these types of stories,” Dori said. “They were connected to it and they wanted to hear more. They’d say, ‘Bring somebody else in,’ because a lot of these testimonies are very heart-felt that they’d be crying when they heard about kids being taken away or whatever situation it might be.”
Chill Out now includes training young people on basic life skills such as helping them understand about good financial habits as well as the 41 Developmental Assets, qualities in a community that help young people succeed. It meets every Thursday evening at the Community and Cultural Center.
“This has developed because of Living Above The Influence and it’s something that I’m really proud of,” Dori said.
One thing Dori often points out to people is why the term “Living Above The Influence” was chosen.
“People ask me what that means. Is it talking about drugs and alcohol?” she said. “That’s not what it’s about. It’s about the influences of life. What I like to tell the kids is that if there is something that is affecting your everyday productivity, whatever that may be, you’re living under that influence. And I tell them we need to live above those influences.”
What: Living Above The Influence
When: Noon to 4:30 p.m., Oct. 10
Where: Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center,
17000 Monterey Road
Contact: (408) 390-9012 or email Livingabovetheinfluence07@gmail.com
To see the original article in Morgan Hill Life, click here
Nonprofit profile: ‘Living Above The Influence’ brings support for local families
Support SB 359
From the Silicon Valley Community FoundationSIGN THE PETITION
Many students are being unfairly held back because their school district does not rely on objective measures to determine their placement. The result is “math misplacement,” a practice that results in a student being forced to repeat a math course even though objective measures such as test scores indicate they should be advanced to the next course. Studies have shown that math misplacement disproportionately affects students of color.
The most egregious math misplacement issue occurs when a student is held back to repeat Algebra 1 instead of being advanced to Geometry. This can cause students to fall too far behind to complete the courses that colleges expect a math or science major to have taken.
Accurate placement is essential to preparing students for a college track and/or readiness for growing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). At a time when the state and nation face a shortage of qualified STEM workers to meet workforce demands, we must find ways to fix this leak in the STEM pipeline.
Please support Senator Holly Mitchell’s SB 359–The California Mathematics Placement Act of 2015. SB 359 will ensure that school districts adopt fair, objective and transparent math placement policies so that no student will experience math misplacement.
For many undocumented farmworkers employed in California, there is a general overarching fear about the possibilities of being detained, deported, and separated from their families. Assemblyman Luis Alejo is seeking to provide legal work permits for those already employed in California’s Agriculture industry, which would ostensibly increase family stability and reduce many fears and anxieties regarding family separation and displacement.
Today is decision day for bills in Sacramento that require the state to spend money. Fiscal committees will decide which bills advance to the Assembly and Senate floors and which bills die for a year. Among those bills is one that would establish a state-sanctioned guest worker program for undocumented farmworkers already employed in California. The California Report’s Queena Kim spoke with the bill’s author, Assembly member Luis Alejo why he chose to focus on farmworkers.
Youth Alliance’s Health Squad, in partnership with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and Pharmacy at Safeway concluded their free week-long camp last week. Students aged 10-14 learned about proper nutrition, diabetes prevention, healthy activities & physical fitness.
Diabetes prevention is important in every community, but in San Benito County’s Latino Community, this is especially vital. Due to many factors, Latinos in San Benito County are uninsured & overweight at a higher rate than the general population. Because access to health care options are more rare, controlling the factors that cause diabetes goes a long way to cover health and financial side effects once diagnosed.
Health Squad, with the help of the ADA and Safeway Pharmacy, tackle diabetes prevention head on. Through field trips, interactive educational seminars and physical activities San Benito County youth are learning practical ways to combat diabetes.
To learn more about Health Squad and what we do, Watch our Video!
Everyone at Youth Alliance would like to give our heartfelt condolences to the family of Joshua Rodriguez, following their tragic loss. This is an unspeakable tragedy and we hope to offer our support in any way possible.
Domino’s Pizza in Hollister will graciously be donating 100% of their proceeds today to the family. Thank you to Domino’s Pizza for their generosity.
Furthermore, Youth Alliance has set up a donation page for the memorial fund below. Your support will go a long way in covering costs for services.
A Little Boy With a Big Heart
A little boy with a big heart – that’s how close friends and family describe 11-year-old Josuha Rodriguez.“When I found out what happened, I just started crying and went straight to the hospital. And I found out he was actually gone. It was sad,” Cody Cordova
Cordova said they were together the night before Josh was killed. That’s a day Cody’s mom, Sheila Cordova, said she will never forget.
“It hurts me to see him because when he asked me he goes ‘Mom, what do I do? I lost my best friend. What am I going to do now?’” Sheila Cordova said.
Police said that just after 4 p.m. on Monday, Joshua was hit by a county bus at the intersection of Memorial Drive and Verdun Avenue. He died at the hospital. The crash was near the skate park where Cody and Joshua spent many hours together.
“I told my son (and) he goes ‘I don’t want to go to the skate park anymore, Mom.’ I said ‘you know what? I don’t think Josh would want that. I think Josh would want you to go,’” Cordova said.
Fundraising events have popped up all over the city. Next Tuesday August 4th, the Hollister Domino’s Pizza is donating all of its proceeds earned that day to the Rodriquez family.
“He was, like, the most lovable person you could ever know. If you were with him, if he was mad or sad, he would still be, like, happy. He would always help people out. We could trust him with anything,” Cody Cordova said.
Hollister police are still investigating how the crash happened. No arrests have been made. Witnesses said the bus driver jumped out to try and help Josh. The driver has not been charged.
President Obama & Juvenile Justice Reform
During his week-long tour which culminated with the first-ever visit to a detention facility by a sitting president, Obama said he was struck by the fact that societal inequities mean that some misbehaving kids end up behind bars instead of in front of a principal’s desk.
“When they describe their youth, these are young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different from the mistakes I made, and the mistakes that a lot of you guys made. The difference is that they did not have the kind of support structures, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to survive those mistakes.”
“If you are a parent, you know that there are times where boys and girls are going to act out in school. And the question is: Are we letting principals and parents deal with one set of kids and we call the police on another set of kids? That’s not the right thing to do,” Barack Obama
The Center for Public Integrity analyzed national education data showing that black, Latino and special needs students across the country are disproportionately referred to law enforcement agencies from their schools, mostly for minor infractions.
School To Prison Pipeline
The School-To-Prison Pipeline President Obama described has serious life-outcome implications, as highlighted by the Campaign for Youth Justice fact sheet Key Facts: Youth in the Justice System. For example, “most youth are denied educational and rehabilitative services that are necessary for their stage in development when in adult facilities. A survey of adult facilities found that 40% of jails provided no educational services at all, only 11% provided special education services, and a mere 7% provided vocational training. This lack of education increases the difficulty that youth will have once they return to their communities.”
Equally troubling, especially in San Benito & South Santa Clara County, are the wide disparities in treatment across race & ethnicity. According to America’s Invisible Children: Latino Youth and the Failure of Justice, “Latino youth are 4% more likely to be petitioned, 16% more likely to be adjudicated delinquent, 28% more likely to be detained, and 41% more likely to receive an out-of-home placement. The most severe disparities occur for Latino youth tried in the adult system. Latino children are 43% more likely than white youth to be waived to the adult system and 40% more likely to be admitted to adult prison.”
There are alternatives to incarcerating youth, and they work. Community-based programs, including diversion programs, drug treatment, evening reporting centers, treatment clinics and family programs, have all been shown to be less costly than detention or incarceration and to help youth stay out of trouble and to not re-offend. Youth Alliance is launching pilot Restorative Justice & Youth Empowerment programs to help explore and implement some of these effective alternatives as well as currently providing youth on probation with opportunities for employment and guidance.
We could eliminate tuition at every public college and university in America with the $80 billion we spend each year on incarcerations.
— President Obama (@POTUS) July 14, 2015
It is promising to see President Obama pushing for Juvenile Justice reform as well as awareness being spread to the mainstream. Hopefully, in the coming months we will begin to see concrete pushes for less punitive and more effective alternatives to Juvenile Incarceration throughout the United states.
This Infographic, from ELearning Infographics illustrates just how instrumental after school and summer learning programs are to closing the achievement gap.
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Youth Alliance would like to say thank you to all of our sponsors, participants, and those who spread the word in joining to make this event a memorable one.
Fifty-three kids learned how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent type-2 diabetes at Health Squad, a weeklong camp presented by Youth Alliance, the American Diabetes Association and Safeway Pharmacy. Read more
The Hollister City Council approved a $22,000 contribution to Youth Alliance for a new Youth Empowerment Center. The funds were raised in the ‘80s to establish a community youth center. In March, the Parks and Recreation Commission unanimously voted to recommend to the council that the funds be allocated to the project.
At National Night Out Tuesday evening two local residents were honored as peace advocates in San Benito County. Assemblyman Luis Alejo selected Dolores Villalon and Robert Scattini to receive the 2013 California Peace Award along with three other residents or groups from his assembly district.
Residents of the 30th Assembly District were asked to submit names of individuals throughout the area that have gone above and beyond to promote peace. Nominations for the California Peace Award were accepted throughout July for individuals with a record of volunteerism and noteworthy accomplishments in their efforts to stop violence and create a safer community. Recipients must have had, over the past year, significantly contributed to the promotion of peace in the community. Read more