Village San Juan families learned how a number of new initiatives, including a homework club, will help their children stay away from gangs.
Organizers behind the , or GRIP, met hundreds from the north-end community Thursday night.
Deputy District Attorney Tracy Rinauro announced that GRIP will now be offering a neighborhood watch program, an after-school homework club, as well as weekly Taekwondo classes in the Village San Juan clubhouse to keep local children safe.
“Several years ago there was a murder in this village, and this is one of the areas that the gangs foster or work on recruiting kids," Rinauro said. "This is not a bad area. It’s a beautiful area, and it’s a great community that lives here, so the goal of tonight is just to bring the community together and give them the skills that they can fight back for gangs."
The event included a singing performance from the members of , a dance performance from the girls of , a Taekwondo presentation by Master Sergio Cardenas and a presentation given by crime prevention specialist, Celina Corley, informing the families about the new neighborhood watch program.
Families in the area said they were very excited about everything that GRIP has to offer and look forward to seeing how it progresses.
“I don’t see much crime around here, so I think it’s more preventative than anything. It offers somewhere to do homework after school rather than get into trouble,” said Village San Juan resident Ralph Nielsen.
Added mom Sandra Bonilla: “Hopefully it does help the community because there is a lot of people that start to wander off. My daughter is only 7 and attends , so she’s still pretty young. But I think that this stage of her life is important, and it’s better that we start them off fresh.”
Just two weeks ago, GRIP came into the neighborhood, recruiting parents to serve as .
Cardenas said he's been with GRIP for the last 2 1/2 years doing presentations at schools and events.
"What I do is I provide a place for kids to be safe and learn. I teach them that the martial arts are all about respect and discipline," Cardenas said. "I try to show them that through physical activity they can be doing something that’s positive, instead of just hanging out in the streets.”
Many private businesses and faith-based groups were represented at the event including: the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the Boys and Girls Club, the Community Health Enrichment Collaborative, the Parent Project, Saddleback Church, Mariachi for All, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County, Academic Chess, Latino Health Access and Taekwondojang.
Saddleback Church is working with GRIP because they believe it can truly transform the community, said Saddleback Church Intern Ryan Hacker.
“Saddleback has been a huge proponent in helping the kids feel energized and realize that there’s people out there who actually care. It’s been really empowering to see that one church can make a huge difference with a help of all these other great organizations,” he said.
Latino Health Access is a non-profit organization based in Santa Ana that helps improve communication within families. They also reduce family violence and increase information and support in the community towards people affected by mental health conditions.
“We offer support groups that help with anything from domestic violence to healthy eating habits,” said Latino Health Access employee Sarah Phan.