LASD program trains at-risk youth in scuba diving

LA PUENTE, Calif. (KABC) -- It's a way to get teens off the streets and into an experience that will let them see the world in a whole new way.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Industry Station S.H.A.R.K. program, or Sheriff's High Adventure for Responsible Kids, trains vulnerable teens to scuba dive in the Pacific Ocean. In exchange, participants must maintain their G.P.A. and school attendance.

"I was nervous at first and excited. It's a once in a lifetime thing, so why not do it?" said 18-year-old Michael Davila, of La Puente.

The kids, ages 14-17, get three hours of training in a classroom and nine hours in a pool. Deputies and dive instructors volunteer their time. All the equipment and funding comes from the Industry Sheriff's Youth Activities League and donations.

"It's really neat to watch a kid who in some cases have never been to the beach before. In one week of training with us, they're feeding fish at 20 feet underwater on Catalina Island," Deputy Jim Bickel said.

For the kids, the experience not only gives them a new view underwater, but also a new outlook on life.

"With this, I'll try new and different things. I won't be afraid so much. If I can do this, why can't I do something else?" Davila said.

"It kind of scares me a little, because it's like the ocean. You never know what you might find in front of you," Rose Garcia said.

But with their new found focus and confidence, they can conquer any challenge, no matter how deep.
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