Program aims to help kids in gangs: 7 teens graduating from Community Wrap Around program Wednesday
Program led by former gang member turned pastor
Last Updated: 84 days ago
SAN DIEGO - A group of teenagers are about to graduate from a local program aimed at helping kids in gangs.
One year ago, the teens were in City Heights gangs. That is when a San Diego police officer approached each one about attending a brand new program to get help.
"I didn't want to be there," said Alexees Montes. "I didn't want to do it, but it was not go and get locked up or go and stay out."
Montes went even though he was not convinced the people who arrested him in the past would be able to help him in the future. He was later surprised.
"They're not doing it because they have to, they're doing it out of their hearts because they want to," said Montes.
It is called the Community Wrap Around program. The San Diego Police Department asked a former gang member turned pastor to head it up.
"Because we're reformed gang members, and so they said, 'Can we give you 10 to mentor?'" said pastor Jesus Sandoval.
Without a doubt and without funding, he said yes.
The teenagers would meet with the officers in a room at New Harvest Christian Fellowship church in City Heights. During the first meeting, they realized they have many similarities.
"We made a list of what are the qualities of being in a gang and they're risk takers, they're courageous, they love their community, they're team players," said Sandoval. "And then, we did what are the strengths about being a police officer and they're risk takers, they're courageous, they love their community. They realized they had the same characteristics but they were expressing them in different ways."
That was a breakthrough moment.
"I surrendered myself, I guess, to their attention and their help," said Montes.
Sandoval hopes they will stay on this track.
"We're hoping for the best but then there is that reality piece, you know, relapse is a reality," he said.
Sandoval added that he is very proud of each of them.
"They have peace," he said. "They're doing something… just what they're doing right now is all worth it."
Montes said, "It's been a great help in my life."
Seven of the ten teenagers will graduate from the Community Wrap Around program on Wednesday evening and two more will finish in a few months. Sandoval hopes this program will be a model for other cities around the country that have similar challenges.
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