SALINAS — More than 200 residents from Monterey County participated in the annual Gang Prevention Summit last Saturday. Among those in attendance were parents, teenagers and middle school students from the South County area.
The attendees were able to hear about different organizations that are available to aid in gang prevention, law enforcement that deals with gang members, and even previous gang members who were able to get out of that lifestyle.
“I thought it would be fun coming to this event because I wanted to hear everyone’s story and why they would get out of gangs,” said Jose Arreola, a King City High School student.
King City student Leslie Escarcega wanted to hear from the speakers, what they had been though and how they changed their life around.
Former Greenfield Police Chief turned Salinas Police Chief Adele Frese spoke about a male named Ernest Nahar. Nahar grew up in gang territory and lived with his grandparents because his parents were in prison.
“He grew up seeing the gang influence and the changes that the local gang made to his local neighborhood,” said Frese. “And, what it did to his grandmother. It kept his grandmother from enjoying life and going outside.”
Nahar developed an interest in policing and contacted the police station that Frese was working at to become an explorer. Now, he is a police officer.
Hartnell College Theater team member Andrew Brown presented a play for the Gang Prevention Summit attendees.
“I played an older cousin trying to tempt his younger cousins to join a gang,” said Brown. “One of them did join my ‘gang’.”
Brown said that after the two performances the ending would be that his character abandons the younger cousin who joined the gang and the cousin gets arrested.
Destine Gutierrez of Gonzales also attended the Summit and was brought to it by Jean Salcido. They wanted to see what the event was about.
The Gang Prevention Summit had representatives from Partners for Peace who have a Step-Up Mentoring program that works with youth who are having trouble in school. The Step-Up Mentoring program motivates kids by talking about drugs, communicating at home, their mentality, their body language and trying to change gang mentality.
The Mentoring program is aimed at kids between the ages of 11 and 14 and offers them different options, such as traveling to museums and rock climbing. Step-Up Mentoring is also trying to put a special emphasis on college this year and is taking students to visit colleges or universities by attending baseball and football games. “Partners for Peace” is available in Gonzales, Soledad, Greenfield and King City areas.
Another program, Harmony at Home has also begun a bullying prevention program at Fairview Middle School in Gonzales, and La Gloria Elementary School has also expressed interest in the program.