El centro Valenzuela es un hogar comunitario

2013-02-22T00:00:00Z El centro Valenzuela es un hogar comunitarioMarcella Corona La Estrella De Tucsón Arizona Daily Star
February 22, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Las familias se agruparon al frente de mesas en los pasillos de la escuela primaria Mission View para recibir folletos de colores, vegetales y consejos para llevar un estilo de vida saludable. Los niños brincaban al ritmo del hip-hop que retumbaba en los pasillos.

El John Valenzuela Youth Center, en 1550 S. 6th Ave., le ofrece varios programas a las familias de Sur Tucsón para que los niños mejoren en la escuela, sus habilidades sociales y su salud. El centro Valenzuela actualmente cuenta con 375 niños que están inscritos en los programas.

Uno de los programas es el de Healthy Habits, o Hábitos Saludables, un programa de 2 años cuyo enfoque es el de educar a los niños y sus familias sobre un estilo de vida saludable, dijo Gloria Hamelitz, directora del centro juvenil.

El centro Valenzuela, que recibe más o menos 250 mil dólares en subvenciones y donaciones, también ofrece programas extracurriculares como el Tween and Teen (Preadolescentes y Adolescentes), Girlz Nite (Noche de Chicas) y Youth-to-Youth (Jóvenes a Jóvenes) donde los adolescentes aconsejan a los niños menores, dijo Hamelitz.

El centro Valenzuela fue el organizador principal de la feria de salud, Healthy Habits Community-Wide Health (Hábitos Saludables A Través de la Comunidad) el 26 de enero para promover hábitos saludables.

"La iniciativa fue de la alcaldesa", dijo Hamelitz. "Era algo que ella realmente quería hacer".

El objetivo es enseñarle a los niños matriculados en el centro Valenzuela cómo ser saludables. La idea de los otros programas como Youth-to-Youth o Tween and Teen es forjar confianza entre el personal y los niños, explicó Hamelitz. De esta forma los niños tenderán a no meterse en problemas y a buscar ayuda cuando la necesiten.

Muchos de los niños que iban al centro Valenzuela cuando eran niños, continúan yendo a los programas pero ya como parte del personal o voluntarios.

"En vez de salir y pasar el rato en calles peligrosas, vienen a pasar el rato [en el centro juvenil]", dijo Erika Jiménez, de 17 años de edad, estudiante de Tucson Magnet High School. "Hay programas extracurriculares para los mayores también, no solamente para los niños".

Jiménez ha continuado participando en el centro desde que fue por primera vez con sus amigos.

"He estado yendo desde entones", comentó. "He estado yendo desde el sexto grado y ahora soy junior [en la preparatoria]".

Pero al igual que muchos niños que se inscriben al centro, Jiménez también tenía problemas.

"Me mudé aquí porque mi padre está en la cárcel", comentó. Jiménez se mudó de East 22nd Street y South Swan Road luego de que su tía, su tutora legal, cambiara de empleo debido a una lesión en la rodilla que sufrió en un accidente automovilístico. Su madre vive en California actualmente.

"Era muy consentida. Al mudarme aquí, comencé a apreciar muchas cosas y a las personas en mi vida".

Aunque no todos hayan experimentado dificultades, muchos tienen a alguien cercano que sí lo ha hecho, como es el caso de Alejandro Gallego, uno de los empleados del centro Valenzuela.

"Siempre he sido buen estudiantes desde kínder", dijo Gallego, quien ha estado con el centro juvenil desde el séptimo grado. "He tenido amigos que han estado en problemas, pero mis familiares me consideran un modelo a seguir".

Gallego, quien actualmente trabaja con grupos de baile, teatro y en contra de la intimidación, dijo que ha visto un mejoramiento en los estudiantes del centro Valenzuela.

"Creo que se involucran mucho a los jóvenes cuando participan en estos eventos", comentó. "Ven los aspectos positivos de todo lo que está pasando en la comunidad. Si llevan un camino equivocado, les ayuda a darse la vuelta".

Algunos padres de familia preocupados como Genevieve Hernández, han encontrado alivio también. Su hija, Ylianna Hernández quien tiene 11 años, ha mejorado desde que comenzó a asistir a los programas del centro.

Al igual que muchos niños, Ylianna tenía problemas en su escuela anterior. Estaba matriculada en otra escuela anteriormente, pero no le gustaba porque era víctima de intimidación. Era tan aguda la situación que los que la intimidaban continuaban hasta en el bus escolar, comentó.

"El centro juvenil realmente le ha ayudado a fortalecer su personalidad y su confianza en sí misma", dijo su madre.

Marcella Corona es estudiante de

University of Arizona y aprendiz en el

Arizona Daily Star. Contáctala al

(520) 573-4213 o en

starapprentice@azstarnet.com

Families gathered in front of tables that lined the halls of Mission View Elementary collecting colorful brochures, greens and tips for healthy lifestyles. Kids jumped to the beat of the hip-hop music blasting through the halls.

The John Valenzuela Youth Center, on 1550 S. 6th Ave, offers families of South Tucson various programs for kids to help improve academics, social skills and health. The Valenzuela Center currently has 375 kids enrolled in the programs.

One of several programs includes Healthy Habits, a 2 year-old program that focuses on educating kids and their families about healthy lifestyles, according to Gloria Hamelitz, director for the youth center. The Valenzuela Center, which receives an estimated $250,000 in grants and donations, also offers after school programs like Tween and Teen, Girlz Nite and Youth-to-Youth allowing teens to counsel younger kids, Hamelitz said.

The Valenzuela Center was the leading organizer for the Healthy Habits Community-Wide Health fair on Jan. 26 as a promotion for Healthy Habits.

"It was the mayor's initiative," Hamelitz said. "That was really something she wanted to take on."

The focus is to educate kids enrolled at the Valenzuela Center on how to stay healthy. The idea behind several other programs, like Youth-to-Youth or Tween and Teen, is to develop a trusting relationship between staff and kids, Hamelitz explained. In this way, kids will be inclined to stay out of trouble and seek counseling when needed.

Many of the kids that grew up participating at the Valenzuela Youth Center continue to attend the programs, but this time as staff members or volunteers

"Instead of going out and hanging out on dangerous streets, they come to hang out [at the youth center]," said Erika Jimenez, 17, a student at Tucson Magnet High School. "There's after school programs for older kids, not just younger kids."

Jimenez has continued to participate at the center since her first visit with her friends.

"I've been there ever since," she said. "I've been going there since sixth grade and I'm a junior [in high school]."

But like many of the kids that start off at the center, Jimenez also had troubles.

"I moved here because my dad is in prison," she said. Jimenez moved from East 22nd Street and South Swan after her tia, her legal guardian, switched jobs because a car accident left the aunt with a knee injury. Her mother currently lives in California.

"I was really spoiled. Moving over here, I started to appreciate a lot more things and the people in my life."

Though not all experienced difficult times, many know someone close who has like Alejandro Gallego, a paid staff member for the Valenzuela Center.

"I've always been a good student since kindergarten," said Gallego, who's also been at the youth center since seventh grade. "I have friends that have gotten in trouble, but family members see me as a positive role model."

Gallego, who's currently working with anti-bullying, dance and drama groups, said he's seen improvement in the students at the Valenzuela Center.

"I think it involves the youths a lot by participating in these events," he said. "They see the positive side of everything that's going on in the community. If they are on the wrong track, it helps them turn around."

Concerned parents like Genevieve Hernandez also saw a turn around in her daughter, Ylianna, 11, since attending the programs at the Valenzuela Center.

Like many kids at the youth center, Ylianna faced trouble at her previous school. She used to go to a different school but didn't like it much because of the everyday bullying, Ylianna said. It got so bad that the bullying followed her and her friend on the bus, she explained.

"The youth center has really helped her bring her personality out and her confidence," her mother said.

Families gathered in front of tables that lined the halls of Mission View Elementary in South Tucson collecting colorful brochures, greens and tips for healthy lifestyles. Kids jumped to the beat of the hip-hop music blasting through the halls.

The John Valenzuela Youth Center, at 1550 S. 6th Ave., offers South Tucson families various programs for children and youths to help improve their academics, social skills and health. The Valenzuela Center currently has 375 kids enrolled in the programs.

One of several programs includes Healthy Habits, a recent 2 year-old program that educates families on healthy lifestyles, said Gloria Hamelitz, the center's director. The Valenzuela Center, which receives an estimated $250,000 in grants and donations, offers after-school programs like Tween and Teen, Girlz Nite and Youth-to-Youth. The programs give the teens to counsel younger kids, Hamelitz said.

The Valenzuela Center was the leading organizer for the Healthy Habits Community-Wide Health fair on Jan. 26.

"It was the mayor's initiative," Hamelitz said. "That was really something she wanted to take on."

Though the center educates kids on healthy lifestyles through Healthy Habits, it doesn't focus on family education like other organizations do. (The previous graf doesn't make sense. The general gist of the center to educate families. When you write that it doesn't offer family education like other organizations, it begs the questions "what other organizations and what is family education."

The idea behind several of the programs (which programs?) is to form a trusting relationship with kids (relationship between the kids and who?) so they can seek help and stay off dangerous streets and out of trouble, Hamelitz explained.

Many of the kids that grew up participating at the Valenzuela Youth Center continue to attend the programs, but this time as staff members or volunteers.

Instead of going out and hanging out on dangerous streets (this is the second reference to dangerous streets), they come to hang out [at the youth center]," said Erika Jimenez, a (what school? how old?) high school volunteer at the Valenzuela Center. "There's after school programs for older kids, not just younger kids."

Jimenez has continued to participate at the center since her first visit with her friends.

"I've been there ever since," she said. "I've been going there since sixth grade and I'm a junior [in high school]."

But like many of the kids that start off at the center, Jimenez also had troubles.

"I moved here because my dad is in prison," she said. (She moved several miles to South Tucson because her dad is in jail? Where's her mother?) Jimenez moved from East 22nd Street and South Swan Road to South Ninth Street and West 28th Street, near the Youth Center, with her tía.

"I was really spoiled. Moving over here, I started to appreciate a lot more things and the people in my life."

Though not all experienced difficult times, many know someone close who has like Alejandro Gallego, a paid staff member for the Valenzuela Center.

"I've always been a good student since kindergarten," said Gallego, who's also been at the youth center since seventh grade. "I have friends that have gotten in trouble, but family members see me as a positive role model."

Gallego, who's currently working with anti-bullying, dance and drama groups, said he's seen improvement in the students at the Valenzuela Center.

"I think it involves the youths a lot by participating in these events," he said. "They see the positive side of everything that's going on in the community. If they are on the wrong track, it helps them turn around."

Concerned parents like Genevieve Hernandez also saw a turn around in her daughter, Ylianna, 11, since attending the programs at the Valenzuela Center.

"The youth center has really helped her bring her personality out and her confidence," Hernandez said.

Like many kids at the youth center, Ylianna faced trouble at her previous school.

"I used to go to a different school," she said. "I really didn't like it that much because people would bully me a lot. I would get picked on everyday."

It got so bad that the bullying followed her and her friend on the bus, Ylianna explained.

"My daughter didn't want to go to school. She would cry everyday getting on the bus," Hernandez said.

(Shorten the previous five grafs into one or maybe two. You basically repeat the point that Ylianna was bullied.)

But with recent classes added to the agenda at Valenzuela Center, many kids who were dropping out returned to school, according to Jimenez. A new menu that offers healthier snacks like fruit and granola bars was also added to the list of changes.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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