Amado youths are benefiting from a second-round of grants to curb underage drinking and substance abuse in the rural community about 25 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Pima County Community Prevention Coalition of Compass Behavioral Health Care Inc. received a five-year grant totaling $625,000 to work with families, youths, business leaders, churches and volunteers there, said Amy Bass, project director and prevention director for the health care agency.
Amado is in a “drug smuggling corridor,” Bass said.
The area is 45 miles south of Tucson.
“The community had long been lacking a central and safe place for youth to congregate,” said Bass, adding that youths who were bored formed “fight clubs” to occupy their time. The fights were videotaped and posted on YouTube.
Each year the agency will receive $125,000 to increase participation among families, youths and organizations in drug-prevention efforts.
In 2008, the agency received the initial award of $625,000 for five years. This latest award is a continuation grant.
Amado has about 200 youths under age 18, said Mauricio Lopez, the chair of Amado Community Alliance.
Since the initial grant, the health agency and community held workshops and brought families, businesses and churches together to focus on the needs of young people, Lopez said.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors provided a $10,000 grant, used to rent and renovate an abandoned storefront, which was converted into the Amado Youth Center.
The center is now a hub of activity, and the community no longer is hearing about fight club activities, said Lopez. Youths go to the center for martial arts, crafts, tutoring, and meetings for community cleanups and mural projects.
Green Valley and Amado retirees and business leaders are now tutoring and mentoring youths at the center, and have donated supplies, computers and furniture.
One retired businessman donated $10,000 for construction of a basketball court and a community garden. The basketball court is set to be dedicated Oct. 26, Lopez said.
Ricardo Lopez, 14, Mauricio Lopez’s nephew, is looking forward to playing on the court. He said he is home-schooled and needs more physical activity. “The youth center is a great place to hang out. We have a place to go now,” he said.
Ricardo Lopez and his brother, Eliseo, took part in substance abuse trainings in Washington, D.C., in February. He and four other youths were able to participate because of the grant.
Since the trainings, the teens talk to others about staying drug-free and healthy, he said.