GUIAS promotes positive character development

Published in the October 26 – November 8, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Marty Cheek

Young people in Morgan Hill, Gilroy and San Benito County have a better chance at successful life thanks to Youth Alliance. The nonprofit organization works with organizations and government agencies to provide youth support services and after-school programs.

The group held its annual Change Makers fundraising dinner Oct. 15 in San Juan Bautista to recognize community members who have made a difference in helping children and teenagers. Among them were the Castellano Family Foundation and Javier Renteria, the recipient of this year’s Youth Inspiration Award.

Renteria, 18, turned his life around after getting expelled from Hollister’s San Benito High School as well as Santa Ana Continuation School for truancy. With the guidance of mentors through the Youth Alliance program, he decided to take his life seriously and study hard at Pinnacles Community School as well as take summer school courses to raise his grade point average. Next fall, he intends to go to Gavilan Community College and then transfer to San Jose State University to earn a degree in either business or teaching.
Renteria works between 25 and 30 hours a week doing janitorial and other services for Youth Alliance and also helping young people much like himself at Hollister schools who need to be guided to choose a better path for their future lives.

“I really like the work that the Youth Alliance does,” he said. “Like with some of the case managers I had, they really had a big impact on me. They are people who understand you and give you their perspective, their points of views, and that really got to me. That’s what youths really need — people who understand how it really is and who can really give you their perspectives as well and understand that you struggle and are straight up and tell the truth.”

Nick Rabago, who serves on Youth Alliance’s board of directors, is active with the GUIAS (Guiding and Understanding Individuals in Achieving Success) program that promotes positive character development in young people.

“About seven years ago, I came in contact with that program at San Benito High School when I started working there,” he said. “We would send our most at-risk students to that program and it would do wonders for them. They got better grades, better attendance, better behavior, and so it became a model program for our school. There was a girls group and a boys group and it really talked about kids keeping their words to themselves first and respecting themselves first and then respecting other people too.”

His involvement led him to join the board. He had been working with Youth Alliance since he worked as a probation officer for nine years in San Benito County, and would refer students to different programs at Youth Alliance, he said.

The nonprofit receives funding from various sources including the Gilroy Unified School District, the city of Gilroy’s South County REACH grant, Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Department of Alcohol and Drug Services, Latino Community Foundation, Castellano Family Foundation, Gilroy Rotary, Gilroy Community Foundation, Latino Family Fund de Gilroy, and the Gilroy Youth Task Force. It assists groups in Morgan Hill such as Living Above The Influence.

“It’s really about change and empowering kids to do the best that they can, kids who are under served,” Rabago said. “There’s this false premise that they have to be someone of color in order for us to serve them, and that’s not true. We help anyone who needs help from us. We’re not going to turn away someone based on what they look like or who their parents are.”

DETAILS

How to get help: www.site.youthall.org/resources
How to help: Call (530) 637-5346 Ext. 13, or email: bnjohns@ucdavis.edu