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April 14, 2010 > YVPIAC delivers hope

YVPIAC delivers hope

By Shavon Walker

On March 31, the Youth Violence Prevention and Intervention Advisory Committee (YVPIAC) held its first call-in, designed to intervene on behalf of high-risk, probationary offenders aged 18-24. If a youth is invited, he or she is required to attend. The group meetings consist of the offender, his/her support system (family members and friends) and members of law enforcement (FBI, police department, district attorneys).

The youth is shown how his/her decisions have affected themselves, their family and their community and how continuing to make poor decisions can further harm their lives. The young person is then given positive options, such as job and school assistance.

The six youths participating were encouraged to bring a family member or a friend; consequently, girlfriends, parents and even children were present for the call-in.

Union City Police Chief Greg Stewart made the opening remarks. A gang officer from the Tri-Ced task force and the district attorney also addressed the attendees, emphasizing their focus on the Tri-City area to ensure the youths know they will be watched closely.

"If you end up in federal court, here's what can happen... 85 percent of the time, there's no getting out early. There's no parole or supervision. You could be sent away for a long enough time that if you have a young child, they could be a teenager before you see them again," explained one of the attorneys.

"When the feds come down and say, 'We know who you are', it's a lot more serious," added Deputy City Manager Tony Acosta.

Community members then spoke with the participants. A trauma nurse from Eden Hospital explained that trauma does not always kill the victim and went into grisly detail about two gunshot cases he treated. Father Jose, a priest from Union City, spoke about the effects of violence on families and friends. To make his point, two parents told the group about the deaths of their sons.

Fabiola Camarillo, Youth Employment Coordinator for Youth and Family Services, attended the call-in and saw the effect of the parents' speeches.

"One of the kids had spent a year in jail. When the chief walked around the table and shook hands, the kid didn't," said Camarillo. "He sat next to one of the mothers, who'd lost her son. As she recounted her personal experience, he realized who she was - his [deceased] best friend's mother. He started to cry."

At the end of the meeting, services and resources were introduced to the group. Art Chang offered the counseling, job training and educational services of Cypress Mandela, West Oakland. This training will increase the chances of being hired by unions which have very specific requirements. Richard Valle, president and CEO of Tri-CED, made four positions available at the community recycling company. Tri CED Recycling is the main employer of at-risk youth in Union City.

YVPIAC also offered its own resources, such as employment help and counseling. The meeting ended earlier than the organizers had anticipated, but everyone was very pleased with the results.

"It was amazing to watch these kids transform. They started out tough because they didn't know what to expect and, by the end, they were more hopeful and wanted to talk more."

"The call-in was a success," added Acosta. "The call-in has two functions - to support the clients, and to spread the word on the street that the program is real and helps. Once people learn of the program, you reach the people for whom it is really intended."

YVPIAC hopes to organize monthly call-ins and is working with adult and juvenile probation and parole.

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