KING CITY — The city, King City Union School District and Pro-Youth are working on bringing the after-school HEART programs to combat youth violence in elementary schools.

“Probably the highest priority item recommended in the Comprehensive Plan to End Youth Violence is the proposal to establish an after school expanded learning program at the elementary school sites,” City Manager Steve Adams said. “This is because our research clearly showed that the learning development in children ages kindergarten to third grade is critical.”

According to Adams, if students don’t have a good educational foundation by third grade, especially in reading and language, the student is more likely to struggle in other subjects leading to them disengaging from school, the community, and more involvement with gangs.

“The most effective method in preventing youth violence and gang activity on a long-term ongoing basis, is by helping children at that age be successful in school,” Adams said.

Offering the Pro-Youth HEART program at schools sites was said to be very important to reach the children who are most at-risk. Pro-Youth is a non-profit organization in Tulare County that the City became aware of through Chief Robert Masterson’s involvement.

Pro-Youth is a 25-year organization that was formed when the Tulare Community said “enough was enough” after the death of doctor who was traveling with his daughter and was caught in the crossfire of two gangs in Visalia. The Tulare Pro-Youth now serves over 16,000 children on over 55 campus sites.

“I’m very excited because I see the city’s passion and I know that this will work because not only our educators but our community leaders are all wanting to be part of this process to better our community,” President of the Pro-Youth Board Dahl Cleek said.

The current program would begin next year, School year 2017-2018, it is expected that 180-200 children would be involved in the program during that year. Pro-Youth would be offered at Santa Lucia School and Del Rey Elementary School. The ultimate goal is to have the program be available to every elementary school age children in King City.

“I grew up in a school where violence was around a lot and unfortunately it became kind of the norm for me,”Multi- Site Director Juan Valencia said. “Then I grew up and I saw that it’s not supposed to be the norm.”

Valencia found Pro-Youth when he was 21 years old and has been part of the organization ever since. Valencia will be taking on King City and visited Santa Lucia this past week.

The plans for fund include a portion of city funding, school district funding, grants from the school district, grants from the city as well as some fundraising efforts.

The idea was approved by the King City Council on April 25 and will still have to be approved by Pro-Youth board and the King City Union School District board.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.

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