In January 2017, King City Council adopted a Comprehensive Plan to End Youth Violence, which was prepared by a 23-member community task force. The highest priority identified is the development of an expanded after-school program at elementary school sites.
Studies have shown the most effective way to address gang violence is to provide elementary school children with the tools to be successful. If they do not have an early foundation of reading and language, it will impede their ability to succeed in other subjects, increase the likelihood they will disengage from school and the community, and make them more vulnerable to gangs and negative influences.
In order to establish the program, the City of King and King City Union School District partnered with ProYouth to offer their HEART program to King City schools. HEART stands for Health, Enrichment, Academics, Recreation and Teamwork. ProYouth, a non-profit organization based in Visalia, has developed an extensive and successful program during the past 25 years.
The ProYouth HEART program offers students healthy behavior activities (nutrition and recreation), enrichment pathways (ag science and culinary arts, computer science and engineering and the arts), homework assistance and tutoring, multicultural awareness and leadership development. These activities are all based upon what data has shown are most effective in increasing student success and reducing youth violence and gang activity.
The program was launched at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year with funds from grants and over $100,000 raised from the community. The initial phase of the program has been provided at Santa Lucia Elementary School, which also serves students from Del Rey Elementary School. Enrollment is now close to 200 children, grades kindergarten through fifth.
The goal for the upcoming year is to add a summer program and to expand program sites to include Santa Lucia, Del Rey and Arts Magnet Elementary Schools in the 2018-19 school year. The City and School District are excited to announce that applications for new Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), 21st Century and After School Education and Safety (ASES) grants have been approved. When combined with other smaller grants and community contributions, funding is in place to expand the program to 400 children next year.
However, to expand the program, more staff are needed. ProYouth is currently recruiting staff for full-time program manager and site director positions and part-time program leaders. Individuals with a passion for making a difference in children’s lives are encouraged to apply online at www.proyouthexpandedlearning.org or call 559-798-9149 with questions.
Applications for students are also being accepted. Enrollment applications are available on the City’s website, at City Hall and at elementary school sites.
The success of the ProYouth program and Comprehensive Plan to End Youth Violence has been a community effort. Contributions are still being accepted to expand and extend the program and are very much appreciated. Donation forms can be found on the City’s website at www.kingcity.com.
For more information on these and other efforts, visit the City’s website or contact City Hall at 385-3281.