When Sgt. Veronica De La Rosa took over as director of the Century Sheriff’s Youth Activities League Center, in November 2012, the large building was only serving about 40 kids. However, due to amazing outreach, in less than a year, the program expanded to 350 kids, and its satellite boxing center has grown from serving 40 youths to approximately 90.

"We just reached out to the community. A lot of people in the community didn't even know we existed," De La Rosa said. "We partnered with the local Chamber of Commerce, which donated a banner so people would recognize that our facility was not just a Sheriff's Department building, but a youth center."

De La Rosa began personally recruiting kids from local junior high and high schools to not only participate in the YAL programs but also to participate in Century's Explorer program. The boost in Explorer enrollment has been a win-win for the YAL. Some Explorers help supervise some of the younger kids in the YAL programs.

"We've also added three additional college-age mentors to the YAL, to meet the growing needs," De La Rosa said. "And, we've added a warm dinner program, so we're able to make sure the kids are eating healthy and their parents don't have to worry about it so much."

Space has not been a major problem as the Century YAL grows, because there is plenty of space available for outdoor activities at the facility.

The YAL has also partnered with other organizations, such as a nearby public pool, to help facilitate field trips and activities for the kids. Groups of youth are always coming and going as the Century YAL serves as a hub of activity with as much as two field trips going out a day.

De La Rosa said the fact that the YAL programs are free to the community's youth was a significant factor in the growth. The YAL was also able to shuttle kids back and forth between the YAL Center and the boxing center, so they don't have to brave the streets of a tough neighborhood in between.

"Being free is huge for us, because this YAL is located in a very low-income area," De La Rosa says. "If we were charging fees like a lot of other programs do, many of these children's families would never afford after-school and summer programs like ours."

For more information on the YAL programs, visit www.SheriffsYouthFoundation.org or call (877) KIDS 411.

Authored by:
Sgt. A.J. Rotella

Forwarded by:
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