Refuge From Youth Violence : La Habra Learning Center Aimed Against Gangs, Crime

Some residents in La Habra have had enough of youth violence and drugs in their neighborhood, and have decided to establish an oasis from the fray so students can devote their afternoons to learning. They deserve encouragement and support in this effort.

A number of volunteers have been spending their weekends painting, replacing carpet and removing graffiti from a house on Grace Avenue. The La Habra Neighborhood Housing Service, a nonprofit organization that arranges low-interest loans, has arranged to lease the house for $500 a month. With donated materials, volunteers are opening a tutoring center to establish a positive learning climate for young people.

The concept of the after-school learning center has been a centerpiece of a number of community-based efforts to provide more positive environments in gang-infested neighborhoods around Orange County. The Orange County Congregation Community Organization in particular has used the concept as a way to help improve neighborhoods, provide youth activities and campaign against crime and gangs. Homework centers have been operated successfully in Fullerton, Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Garden Grove, Santa Ana and other communities, and there are plans to open more such centers.

The La Habra center will be developed on the model of a program operated by community activist Rose Espinoza, who leads a tutoring program from her garage on 4th Street. Espinoza once benefited from NHS's services. The program will be operated by volunteers from the Grace-Pacific neighborhood, and the idea will be for children to drop in for homework help.

To date, volunteers have been making the improvements at the house with materials donated by local businesses, which are to be commended for recognizing the importance of this work and for participating. The after-school center is aimed for families where parents may work all day, speak little English and lack a formal education.

It is encouraging that parents and grandparents have been showing their enthusiasm and want to help children realize the benefit. This kind of effort is especially important to help young people get the right start.

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