Despite ongoing financial concerns, Save Our Youth on Friday night welcomed students back for another year and showed parents that the organization still has a lot to offer.
"We aren't going anywhere and we see the need from the community," said Cesar Cappellini, chairman of the Costa Mesa-based nonprofit.
More than a dozen parents came out for SOY's first Back to School Night to tour its facilities on the Rea Elementary School campus. They learned about its tutoring and academic offerings, fitness and dance programs, and art and music lessons.
"We want to enforce that we're still here," said Operations Manager Silvia Rosales. "We're still going to offer services."
SOY spent the last year struggling financially after losing its largest — and main — anonymous donor due to the economy. The organization has since pared down its financial incentive program for students who get good grades, cut some of its offerings and let go much of its staff, including its executive director.
Still, the organization offered September and October calendars that are packed with workshops, field trips, hikes and game nights.
At the open house, students signed up for everything from piano, art and DJ lessons to break dancing and circuit training. The highest demand was for Insanity workouts and Cumbia dance lessons.
The classes start next week, but it isn't too late for students to sign up — middle and high school students can join SOY throughout the year, said co-founder and board member Jean Forbath.
While the night showcased what SOY offers students, it was also a chance to get parents involved.
The organization is looking for the parents and for community members to volunteer to teach workshops, supervise weight training, tutor — anything, said Eduardo Iniestra, the art and music coordinator.
"It's more important than ever for parents to get involved," he said. "At this point, having the parents involved will make a great difference."
Costa Mesa resident Araceli Castillo came to the open house with her 13-year-old son, Aldo, who is registering for SOY.
She said she was surprised by everything she saw and feels more comfortable with her son spending time at SOY now. Castillo said she wants her son involved because she wants him to go to college.
"I think it's a step to go to the university," she said.
Want to get involved or find out more? For a full list of classes offered, visit http://www.save-our-youth.org. Anyone interested in volunteering can call Operations Manager Silvia Rosales at (949) 548-8501.