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Our Opinion: Programs producing champions

November 28, 2001

Youth recreation programs often make a big difference in the lives of young people. Those programs — from police athletic leagues to city rec programs to other youth-oriented efforts — make life a little to a lot better for kids, and the impact is easy to see.

Not only do our kids have a chance to have positive role models and to take part in programs that will aid them as they grow, such programs show young people what can happen when they work hard to achieve a goal, whether individually or as part of a team.

Take the Imperial Valley Chargers as an example of just how important a positive relationship between law enforcement and kids can be. The Chargers, a flag football team associated with the Imperial County Sheriff's Activities League and made up of youths from throughout the Valley, won a national title at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla.

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These kids are winners even if they didn't win the title. They are winners because they participated and because they worked as a team. They are winners because they now know what it is to work with others to bring to fruition a positive goal. They also are winners because through PAL they had a chance to see another part of the country and expand their horizons.

Still, it should be stated these kids have learned how good it can feel to be the best and that is a feeling we are confident they will hold onto their whole lives. We all hope they will continue to strive to be the best they can be, whether they always come out on top or not.

One of the best things about the ages 12 to 14 team was it was a collection of players from around the Valley, and the players came together just at the time when high school rivalries are forming. So now, instead of being rivals when they compete, they can compete as friends. With all the bitterness we see in local sports at times it is good that this countywide PAL program is going to lessen that.

Juanito Soto is yet another shining example of how positive youth programs can be. Juanito, 13, recently won the 75-pound division in the Police Activities League national boxing championship in Kansas City, Mo. He has earned a spot at the 2004 Olympic boxing tryouts for the United States team.

Juanito is a product of PAL and local boxing programs. He has learned, like the kids in the Imperial Valley Chargers, what it is to work as hard as you can to achieve a goal and to go after your dreams.

Youth programs reach out to our young people in ways that can be measured in both the short-term and the long-term. Kids given the chance to take part in youth programs learn skills that will be invaluable as they mature and take on roles in their communities and as they become parents and volunteers.

All those who give of themselves to give our youths such opportunities deserve the utmost praise. Those who do give of themselves are creating the next generation of leaders.

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