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Forum Seeks to Steer Youths From Gangs : Violence: Former member tells West Covina gathering how two of his friends were fatally shot while crashing a party. Community task force organized to aid, counsel young people.


As a teen-ager growing up in a San Pedro housing project, Xavier Hermosillo thought being a gang member was cool--until two of his friends were fatally shot as they climbed the stairs to crash a house party. His life was spared because he hadn't gotten out of the car as fast as they had.

The violent death of his friends, combined with a beating by his mother for stealing a 1959 Chevy Impala, made him realize that gang life wasn't for him.

Hermosillo, now president of a public relations and government affairs firm and a resident of West Covina, told his story at a gang summit Wednesday in West Covina.

Officials there are desperately trying to steer other at-risk youths in the same direction Hermosillo took. At Wednesday's meeting--the city's second public forum on gangs--representatives from Montebello and Rowland Heights talked about their successful gang task forces.

At West Covina Mayor Richard Jennings' request, about 30 people signed up for a community youth task force.

Since the first gang summit:

* Brenda Lee Ozuna, a single mother, formed the Whitney Ann Nonprofit Foundation for Children. The volunteer group will offer reading classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Shadow Oak Park Recreation Center, 2121 Shadow Oak Drive, West Covina. The first class is on June 4 from 7:15 to 9 p.m.

* West Covina Parents Against Gangs and Drugs was formed in March, said interim chairwoman Kathy Jones. The group originated in a West Covina Unified School District program and includes a Neighborhood Watch group.

* Mary Herbener, child welfare and attendance supervisor for the school district, said it has hired a Los Angeles County probation officer to counsel elementary and middle school pupils and their parents.

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