Val Verde Park
30300 Arlington Avenue
Val Verde, CA 91384
Santa Clarita Station
23740 Magic Mountain Pkwy
Valencia, CA 91355
At a Glance
• Programs: Homework club, mentoring, arts & crafts, pottery class, cooking class, bingo, girls group. Youth Leadership Council (leadership program), coed soccer, basketball, softball, football, half-hour hustle, field trips (fun/educational).
• Wish List Includes: Our own facility, computers, sports equipment, digital camera, tables/chairs, ping pong table.
Santa Clarita YAL Shares Strong Bond with Community
The Santa Clarita YAL doesn’t even have its own facility — but produces results just the same.
The center operates out of borrowed space at Val Verde Park, nestled in the hills west of Santa Clarita. The community of Val Verde is sometimes an afterthought within the greater Santa Clarita Valley community, but the staff and volunteers of the YAL make sure that the youths there are treated like anything but afterthoughts.
“The YAL plays a very significant role in our community,” says Site Manager Jaime Briano. “The YAL strives to make kids aware of the many choices that life offers. We have programs that prepare our youths for their futures and get them thinking about college.”
The Santa Clarita YAL benefits from a strong connection with the community, which provides significant resources to the YAL and helps it make the most of its status as a long-term guest at Val Verde Park. Community donations help fund trips and activities, and a partnership with a local elementary school provides the assistance of professional teachers who visit the YAL several times a week to help the youths with their homework. Approximately 60 youths attend the YAL each day, and it has more than 150 registered members.
“One of the greatest values our YAL provides to the community is consistency,” Briano says. “Over the years there have been numerous programs that make a great deal of promises and don’t last. We provide a safe, fun place for youths to attend. The YAL is a place where our kids can come together and just be kids. You can be any shape, size, color and be accepted. The YAL brings together kids who normally would not engage with each other anywhere outside the program.”
It also develops positive relationships between Sheriff’s Deputies and youths who get to know each other in friendly settings.
“In our community, when you see a deputy arrive at your home, it doesn’t always mean it’s a bad thing,” says Briano. “Most of the deputy visits in our community are to drop off kids from ball games or amusement parks.”
The center places a great deal of emphasis on education and leadership, which has helped many youths excel. For example, Santa Clarita YAL participant Raul Domrique became one of 10 youths statewide who were named to the Board of Directors of the California Police Activities League, and represented CalPal at a conference in Washington, D.C.
“I think the kids are the No. 1 star of the program,” says Briano. “This is why we’re here. This is our future.”
Santa Clarita YAL Provides Hope in Troubled Times
Rudy Guerrero never gave a second thought to the future. As it was, the present seemed bleak enough. While his family faced economic challenges that forced them to make difficult lifestyle changes, his grades suffered and he didn’t look toward the future with optimism.
But the Santa Clarita YAL changed his outlook.
“My grades before starting the YAL were, like, low,” says Guerrero, 13. “I didn’t have any thoughts about the future before I joined the YAL.”
Guerrero and his family faced some pretty significant challenges just making ends meet — but, he says, the Santa Clarita YAL’s programs have helped him get through that difficult period, and even given him a new sense of optimism and hope for his future.
“The most difficult time I’ve had in my life was the past couple of years, because we’ve had to move from a house into a small trailer and money has been really slow, and we’ve been having problems,” says Guerrero, who was the Santa Clarita YAL’s honoree at the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation’s 2012 Salute to Youth Gala.
Not only has the YAL helped him navigate troubled times, but also, he says, it has sparked his interest in a possible career: “My thoughts for my future is becoming a law enforcement (officer). I want to become a detective.”