UNITED STATES: Salesian Boys & Girls Club in East LA Helps Youth Stay Safe, Focused on School
(MissionNewswire) Working in more than 132 countries around the globe, Salesian missionaries have created a vast network of primary, secondary, vocational and technical schools serving poor youth. With a focus on education and workforce development, Salesians worldwide provide disadvantaged youth valuable resources to help them find livable wage employment to break the cycle of poverty and lead meaningful and productive lives.
Functioning side by side with Salesian schools, youth clubs offer young people opportunities for engaging in constructive activities during their leisure time. Through organized programs which often include sports and music, youth are taught teamwork and social skills while gaining opportunities for personal growth. Some youth clubs also offer small medical clinics and, where needed, lunch programs to protect children from malnutrition.
Here in the United States, the Salesian Boys and Girls Club in East Los Angeles, California is making steady progress helping youth living in poverty gain an education and go on to lead productive lives. Youth in the East L.A. area face a number of challenges. According to the most recent 2012 U.S. census data, close to 27 percent of residents of East L.A. live in poverty, an increase from the overall 15.3 percent poverty rate for California. Youth living in poverty face lower rates of high school graduation and difficulty finding and maintaining employment as well as struggle with high crime rates and gang activity.
“Youth living in poverty in East L.A. communities have difficulty excelling and remaining in school. They also face high levels of unemployment and pressure to join gangs and engage in other illegal activities,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian youth programs provide positive role models, structured activities, a safe place to get off the streets and a nonviolent, supportive environment in which to engage with peers.”
The Salesian Boys and Girls Club recently wrapped up its summer camp with many campers continuing into the youth club’s fall programs. The club provides a safe space where youth can engage in sports, music, the arts and other social activities. The programs help build confidence and teach team building and conflict resolution skills. Leadership development, health programs and wrap-around family services also help youth connect with their peers, families and communities. In addition, the club offers at least one full meal a day and additional tutoring and educational programs to complement school studies. Currently the club has more than 3,400 registered members, ages 6 to 18.
“The Salesian Boys and Girls Club targets youth who would otherwise be on their own during their time away from school,” adds Fr. Hyde. “Instead of being on the streets or home alone, young people are able to join in the youth club’s activities and use their free time productively, staying safe and accessing support services that help them stay in school and keep focused on leading a happy and healthy life.”
Because of the continued success of its summer and fall programs, the Salesian Boys and Girls Club has been invited to develop programs in three local East L.A high schools as well as to open a new community location.
United State Census Bureau –East Los Angeles CDP, California