"The hardest part (of the program) is making sure kids stay stable. We like to give them educational advancement and most of all, employment. This is work they get paid for with cash to help their families," Arteaga said. "It makes them realize that sooner or later, they'll be entering the job market. But, for every kid we work with, there's 500 more that need it."
Two teams of youth volunteers worked with
A former sociologist from the local university, Arteaga said the broken glass symbolizes something known as "broken window syndrome."
"Broken window syndrome is a theory that believes when people go into a neighborhood and see a lot of broken windows, they think they can do anything in that area," Arteaga said. "That's what we're trying to avoid here."
"We came to help pick up trash because it's something to entertain ourselves with instead of sitting at home," Ortiz said.
Ortiz, Duran and 10-year-old Davi'ana Ramos worked with
"The kids get to see the effects of trash and it will probably make them think twice before throwing a bottle over the fence," Arteaga said. "It's also a chance to bring kids together from different areas --
The second team of volunteers, made up of siblings Naveh, 10, and Najee, 12, Nious and
"It's a social phenomena that a symbol, like these gang signs, can create so much destruction," Arteaga said. "They can illicit a response. This area can be a nice recluse for kids, though, to talk about their issues. They do better when they talk amongst themselves."
Khalil, who has worked with GAPP for four years, said the cleanup gives the kids something to do and gives them incentive, and they also get to participate in fun activities like ice skating, bowling and swimming after the work is done.
"It's something to keep us busy, but it also keeps us out of trouble," Khalil said. "We are at risk, you know, so we do this sort of thing to clean but also to have fun."
Arteaga also noted GAPP's ongoing weapon program, in which people can give Arteaga guns, no questions asked, and they will be turned over to the police.
"We've already have three weapons turned in this year, which brings our total to 102 overall," Arteaga said. "Kids are often curious about guns, and for the most part I've been lucky enough to have kids tell me where a gun is. It's an interactive process to show them the dangers of gang violence."
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