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Calexico residents join mentoring programs

February 16, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Neighborhood House here has signed up 13 people to participate in its four new mentoring programs.

That means there are 87 kids, teens or moms who still need someone as a mentor.

The non-profit community service organization is looking for 100 mentors to spend a minimum of four hours a month with a Calexico resident who needs a helping hand or just a buddy.

The mentors could spend time with a teen who might be considering joining a gang, help a homeless mother care for her children, teach a young child skills that allow him or her to get a job or take time out of their day to play with a child who doesn't have anyone to play with.

Neighborhood House coordinator Esteban Jaramillo is in charge of one of the four programs, the Gang Violence Suppression Project.

Jaramillo is trying to match 30 teens with positive role models so they are less likely to end up recruited by one of Calexico's six major gangs.

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A teen who doesn't join a gang will avoid the often violent initiation ritual and the almost-constant turf clashes, he said.

According to Jaramillo, most of the city's gangs "jump in" prospective members.

At the "jump-in" a prospective gang member must stand defenseless while he or she is beaten by members. After the teen takes a beating he or she is welcomed into the gang.

Jaramillo hears about the initiations and the recent "recruiting drives" of particular gangs when he talks with the city's youth.

Some of the teens ask him for a way out. It's those teens who Jaramillo wants to match with mentors.

"The kids that are thinking about it — we want to get them out of the environment," he said.

Some of the activities encouraged for mentors and mentees: ballgames, a movie or something as simple as a one-on-one game of basketball — anything that gets a teen talking about something constructive and positive.

"Hopefully they're going to be so tired from all of the activity that they won't be out there in the middle of the night," he said.

The program is operated in conjunction with the county Office of Education, the Calexico Police Department and the county probation office.

To volunteer for the Gang Violence Suppression Project call Jaramillo at 427-9730.

Neighborhood House also is sponsoring the Amiga Program. This program hopes to match 40 active, community-minded women with homeless mothers.

The mentors could help the mothers with filling out aid paperwork, sharing tips or life-experiences or helping the mothers find baby-sitting or a job.

Anyone who signs up for any one of the Neighborhood House's four programs will be given a letter and a certificate to validate the hours spent volunteering. The minimum commitment is one hour a week once a week for a month.

To sign up for the Amiga Program call Maricela Trujillo at 357-6875.

The third mentoring opportunity is called the Recreation Program. This program matches up at least 10 fifth- through eighth-graders with former coaches or athletic community members who want to help organize a group game or fun one-on-one athletic activity for Calexico youths.

Jaramillo hopes this program becomes as successful as Brawley's Boys and Girls Club.

To volunteer for the program contact Martha Amezquita at 357-6875.

The forth mentoring program is called the Youth Skills Academy. This program gives 20 energetic 14- to 21-year-olds the chance to learn specific job-related skills to help boost their self-esteem.

Jaramillo said a young woman interested in carpentry, for example, would be matched with a handyperson who could show her the ropes and further pique her interest.

To sign up for his program call Virginia Molina at 768-9566.

The academy is sponsored by the Workforce Investment Board.

On certain Saturdays in coming weeks, Neighborhood House will hold training seminars for those interested in mentoring. Seminar attendees will learn how to mentor effectively and pick up some tips and guidance as to the activities recommended by NH.

Jaramillo expects to see results in the community in six months.

"We hope to turn around high-risk youth that are in need of these services. We are here to serve them," he said.

Anyone living in Brawley, El Centro and Holtville could qualify for gas money and a small stipend in exchange for donating time in Calexico.

Church groups and community organizations that want to sponsor a large group activity can call Neighborhood House at 357-6875 to set it up.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com

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