Group celebrates a year of growing together
Started a year ago in response to increased drug and gang activity in Kings Beach, members of Creciendo Unidos say they have accomplished a lot in a short time, including getting their youth members to communicate with them.This group shows them that even though we are not their parents, we care about them, Javier Palomino said of the children involved in the group. That is my experience, but some kids used to believe that it wasnt OK to come to my house, and now they trust me. That is the most important the relationship between adults and kids.Palomino and other parents created Creciendo Unidos, or Growing Together, to promote healthy activities for youth, increase parental awareness of issues affecting their children, and ensure a safe place for generations to come. Creating Alternatives is the teen spin-off of Creciendo Unidos. Both groups work together to come up with activities that are then implemented. I think we have been very successful, not only with the group, but with the community, said Sylvia Doignon, a facilitator of the group. The kids didnt have anything to do and I think thats why they got into trouble. At first, the kids didnt want the parents involved and now they want to do activities with them.Some of the activities in which the parents and teens have jointly participated during the past year include, among other things, a social dance, a camping trip, a full moon hike, a hike to Squaws High Camp, barbecues in Kings Beach, a car wash, a garage sale, a mother and daughter makeover and volunteering in the community. The group has also resurrected Alanon meetings, has held anti-gang and drug abuse prevention workshops, and created a safe meeting space for women. Many new things have come up because of this group, Doignon said. Its a huge accomplishment in that the kids want to do things with their parents. Indeed, the teens involved say they have tried new activities they would not have otherwise, and that it gives them something to do other than staying at home. They also say the group has touched on a larger issue preventing and raising awareness of drug abuse.Instead of doing drugs, Im here, said 15-year-old Victor Cisneros, a member of Creating Alternatives.The Kings Beach grassroots effort has even spread to other parts of the United States. Emilio Vaca, a founder of Creciendo Unidos and Creating Alternatives, is now the development coordinator for the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation in Phoenix, Ariz., where he is spreading the ideals of the local group. I presented the work and model of this little group out of Kings Beach to community leaders, organizers, city officials, faith-based organizations, business and non-profit sector. They are moved that a group of parents and youth have done what theyve done in such a small amount of time. They were also empowered and given a sense of hope that it can be done, Vaca said via e-mail. I feel honored to know that Phoenix is considering using Creciendo Unidos and Creating Alternatives as an example to empower the community.