LINCOLN HEIGHTS : Activist Organizes LULAC Youth Club

Five months after her daughter was severely injured by a drunk driver in a crosswalk, Beatrice Gonzales has suspended her push for a traffic light at the intersection and instead is focusing her energy on establishing a neighborhood youth group.

Gonzales said she realized that a traffic light would probably not save another child from a drunk driver, so at the request of Father Juan Santillan, pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church, and Rosemary Lopez of County Supervisor Gloria Molina's office, Gonzales started organizing the youth group.

"We're going to work with the kids and show them things they can do to be involved," Gonzales said. "If this is what I can do to help them, I hope it does some good."

About a dozen youths have joined the new Lincoln Heights League of United Latin American Citizens Youth Council, said Gonzales, who wants to involve the teen-agers in crafts and activities at the Boys and Girls Club.

Gonzales also hopes to raise money so they can attend the May 27-29 LULAC state convention in Cerritos. Gonzales wants the Lincoln Heights 14- to 17-year-olds to be able to stay at a hotel so they can get a full taste of the convention.

Friends who helped Gonzales raise money for her daughter's medical expenses will host a $5 menudo breakfast from 9 a.m. to noon May 15 at the Lincoln Heights Boys and Girls Club, 2635 Pasadena Ave., for the new group.

"They have (LULAC youth groups) in Monterey Park and Alhambra but not in our area," Gonzales said. "We want to bring the kids to show them to be good citizens and to help the community."

Gonzales said she is taking on the new project in part to thank the youths who were so supportive of her family in the aftermath of the Dec. 5 accident, which put her 14-year-old daughter in a coma for 15 days. Cindy Gonzales had been walking with her friend Frank Cifuentes, 16, on North Broadway at Sichel Street when a car driven by John Joe Gomez, 30, of Lincoln Heights hit them, throwing Cindy 30 feet. Cifuentes suffered a broken leg, cuts and bruises. Gomez, who had two prior convictions for drunk driving, was sentenced April 29 to three years in state prison, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Jessica Pick.

Cindy Gonzales, who is now walking without the aid of a walker, will be returning to Lincoln High School soon. She had been attending Eagle Rock High School for classes that helped her review the several months of learning that she lost because of her injuries.

Cindy's rehabilitation, in which she was in classes with other disabled youths, has helped her mother focus on activities the new youth group might pursue.

"I'm looking for a place with handicapped kids so we can spend a day with them and help them," Gonzales said. "Cindy's opened up new avenues for us because she doesn't see them as handicapped, whereas before, she probably wouldn't have paid any attention to them."

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