By John Hernandez
Adelante Juntos Coalition Project Director Betty Chavez was the happy recipient of a check from the Pinal County Attorney’s Office on Friday, March 23. Pinal County Attorney James Walsh presented the generous check of $10,000 to Betty at B Avenue School which will be the home of the El Centro Youth Center, a new Adelante Juntos project. The money comes from Pinal County RICO (Racketeering Involved Criminal Offensive) funds and will help to open up Phase I of El Centro. Walsh was busy on Friday as he earlier presented $2,100 to Central Arizona College Aravaipa Campus.
El Centro will be a youth center that will provide programs, activities and entertainment for the youth in the Tri-Community. The center will have gaming tables, foosball, ping pong, air hockey, and a sophisticated video game system including 52 inch flat screen TVs. All kids will be welcome. They will be separated by age groups.
“It will be a social gathering place in a supervised safe environment that is alcohol, drug and tobacco free,” said Chavez. “It will be supervised by trained adult personnel and trained peer leaders. Eventually it will be run by the peer leaders. We have many responsible teen leaders in our community.”
El Centro will be utilizing the B Avenue multi-purpose room and the attached building for the first phase of El Centro. Plans are to create a dance studio to teach different types of dancing such as hip hop, folklorico, modern, etc. A broadcast studio where kids can learn “mixing beats”, recording and music production is being planned as well as a center for the arts including a music room where kids can learn to play an instrument. Betty is hoping to get 20 laptop computers which will allow them to open a cyber café. They hope to eventually have a snack bar run by the kids to sell soft drinks and treats to help support El Centro.
A summer program is being planned to engage youth throughout the summer including a community garden where kids can learn to plant and grow vegetables with the harvest going to the Food Bank.
“This will be an obvious benefit to the community,” said Betty. “The center through its programs will teach leadership, instill a sense of community pride, responsibility and accountability which are known as protective factors. By providing these protective factors, we build resiliency in our kids. They will then resist temptation to drink or use drugs, resist sex or have responsible sex.”
Phase 2 of El Centro is to create an active community center. They would like to have all the available empty space at B Avenue being used to enhance the community. The vision is to have El Centro become “a center of excellence”, a central location for providers of all the areas services such as food stamps, county health, job center, Community Schools, senior services, etc.. They would like it to be a comprehensive one stop center where anyone can get an answer for their social needs. It could also be used for adult education classes, GED, college classes and counseling services.
Betty said that Adelante Juntos will also be receiving a mini-grant from the Arizona Women’s Partnership, an all volunteer, philanthropic, non-profit organization dedicated to empowering women’s grass roots organizations through mini-grants and awareness. It was founded by Paula G. Cullison and is based in Phoenix. They will be hosting the 11th Annual Wine, Women & Jazz fund raising event at the Arizona Culinary Institute in Scottsdale on April 28 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. El Centro Adelante Juntos San Manuel will be one of their chosen grant recipients that will benefit from this fundraiser.
“This is all part of the collaborative that will get the Youth Center open,” said Betty.
El Centro Adelante Juntos will be hosting an “Easter Blast” on April 7 from noon until 6 p.m. at the Avenue B School location. There will be an Easter egg hunt for the kids, free food, burgers and hot dogs and will be served. They will have drinks and other treats for sale. Everyone will have a chance to win some nice Easter baskets that will be raffled. This is the first of what will be many family events to be held at El Centro.