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LA non-profit for at-risk youth to be cut

June 3, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A community service program offering life skills and more to at-risk kids is in deep trouble.

These at-risk teens are learning life lessons that will help keep them out of trouble through the Positive Alternatives for Youth Program (PAY). But it is set to lose state funding as a result of the budget crisis in Sacramento.

"This isn't like any other community service," said 17-year-old George Perez. "Where you just do your hours and don't care, that's it. But it's a whole new other experience."

Like many of the teens, Perez ended up at PAY after being sentenced to community service for resisting arrest. He says the program has changed his life.

"Instead of being out on the street I'm over here learning something new every day I come," said Perez. "Everything just different than how I was."

PAY also offers family counseling and drug and alcohol prevention. But its focus is youth development; giving the teens new hope for their future.

"Before I come here I was a troublemaker," said 16-year-old Andrea Avila. "And when I came here they motivated me to do better in life."

Open in the San Fernando Valley for the last 41 years, PAY has helped thousands. But on Dec. 31 it will all end, when state funding is scheduled to be cut. The non-profit has been trying to find other sources, but has come up empty.

"Where there's money you have everyone reaching out to get it," said PAY Executive Director Frank Thomas. "It's not that we're not trying to get revenue. It's just highly competitive."

The kids at PAY say it has become their family, and they can't imagine losing that support for themselves and the teens who will follow behind.

"They push you forward to be somebody in life, that's what I like about it," said Avila. "I just didn't see no hope for me. When I got here that was my hope."

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