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Making the Right Connections gets kids to say no to gangs

July 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
It was an important lesson for more than 1,000 inner city kids at a summer program called Making the Right Connections.

This year just under 1,100 students from south Los Angeles and Compton have been given the opportunity to meet new friends in a safe environment and stay away from the gang influences that many of these kids say they face every day.

"They are positive and they keep me happy all the time," said student Myion Hardy. "Because I had bad friends when I was at my old school."

"The teachers who tell me to keep learning and do all that stuff, I will do it," said student Kathy Morales. "Because I do not want to end up with those gangs. It helps a lot."

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles provides the five schools where the kids meet, and private donors provided the funding. The program is geared toward kids in kindergarten through eighth grade.

"We kind of target kids who have brothers or sisters in gangs, or are living in gang-impacted neighborhoods," said program organizer Daniel Drass. "Because if you can get that group and keep them away, get them involved in more positive activities, then the reality is you're going to have a better ability to reduce gang activity going on here in Los Angeles."

So how do you measure the success of the program? For many of the kids, the success was felt right away.

"The success of this program is helping me stay away from gangs, the bad influences that have shootings and everything," said student Inez Staples.

"It helped me learn what gangs do and help me keep away, and don't get into gangs," said student James Houston.

Making the Right Connections has been helping kids stay away from gangs for 23 straight years.

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