Jaime Uzueta, 17, loves to write and wants to be an English teacher and help other kids. But first he plans to get a job to help his mom and sister, and enroll at Cuesta or Hancock colleges after graduating from high school.
Angel Bedolla, 17, wants to be an architect, after attending community college and then Cal Poly. Both boys like to dance hip hop and enjoy helping out in the community.
Angel and Jaime, both Nipomo High School students, are in LifeBound Leadership in Nipomo, an after-school program for boys and girls ages 12 to 18 funded by the state Department of Health Services through a Community Challenge Grant. It is administered by the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County — formerly the Economic Opportunity Commission.
At the After School Teen Center (the only one of its kind in San Luis Obispo County) on Dana Street in Nipomo, project supervisor James Statler emphasizes the “gifts” of each student, and, in fact, interviewed two drop-ins as I waited.
One student likes woodworking, and Statler enthusiastically encouraged him to pursue that interest in the program.
One component of LifeBound is the Pathways to Adulthood Youth Leadership Development program, funded by the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation.
LifeBound works with Vision Unida, a Hispanic leadership program, to bring in guest speakers for 15 workshops. Students are expected to attend the after-school lectures on such topics as leadership skills, self-reflection, conflict resolution, leadership in the arts, civics, diversity and jobs.
Guest speakers include prominent, mostly Hispanic leaders in the community, although LifeBound is not limited to Hispanic youth. Students attend a graduation dinner in June where they receive awards and certificates of completion.
All participants are encouraged to participate in community service. Both Jaime and Angel said it felt good to help build a kiosk in the César Chávez Native Garden in Nipomo Community Park and to help raise money for the Healing Us Garden Sanctuary.
HUGS, a 4-acre parcel in Nipomo masterminded by Sally Dean as a sanctuary for cancer survivors, is another location where teens are making a difference.
Give-A-Day, Get-A-Day is a program sponsored by Disneyland where students who volunteer on March 20 and 27 get a free day at the theme park.
A new program at LifeBound is the Growing Together Initiative Grant, also funded by the Community Foundation. This program provides four sessions for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.
Participants learn about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, how to be an ally or advocate and to create a “safe space” for themselves.
Students learn grassroots organizing based on Camp Obama methods used in the Obama presidential campaign. They are asked to volunteer two hours to a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group and will qualify for a gift card. There will be a group at Nipomo and Arroyo Grande high schools.
Statler developed a connection with an expressive arts therapist with an office in the building on Dana Street. They’ve collaborated for mask making and other art activities.
Statler also has plans to develop an arch in the Native Garden.
Edwin Aguirre, 17, and Jesse Bedolla, 15, both attend the program. Edwin likes it because you “learn new stuff every week.” Jesse likes how he is learning “how to manage money, skills for jobs” and that “first impressions matter for an interview.”
Both boys, also Nipomo High School students, said they want to go to college and become mechanics, with Edwin planning to specialize in auto body painting. All the boys like to hang out with friends in the after-school program as well as have the opportunity for homework support, use of computers, Xbox 360 games, ping pong, go on field trips, and expressive arts.
For program inquiries, contact James Statler at 929-6054 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The South County Beat appears every other week. Anyone with story ideas involving interesting people in the South County can reach Gayle Cuddy at 489-1026 or email@example.com.