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Youth Center's Inner-City Games Open Today at USC


Tens of thousands of youths from throughout Los Angeles will gather this week for athletics and education programs at the Hollenbeck Youth Center's Inner-City Games.

The games, which drew 40,000 participants ages 7 to 17 in its inaugural last year, are being staged to aid the youth center's fight against juvenile delinquency, drugs and gang violence.

"Our goal this year is to have 100,000 participants," said Danny Hernandez, executive director of East Los Angeles-based center.

The Inner-City games will begin today with opening ceremonies outside USC's main library and continue through Oct. 25, with a fund-raising golf tournament Oct. 29.

Los Angeles youths will participate in sporting events--volleyball, baseball, gymnastics, basketball, swimming, karate, flag football, soccer and boxing--at Cal State Los Angeles, USC and other locations.

"We want to get these kids involved in something positive," Hernandez said. "Sports is the universal language that these teen-agers speak. If we are able to make an impact on the grass-roots level, that impression will last forever."

In addition to the sporting events, the games will include special events such as an essay contest, a 5-K run for fitness and a two-day career expo which, among other things, will include clinics on health, job-training programs and seminars on family counseling and drug prevention. Those events will take place at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday and Saturday.

The Hollenbeck Youth Center was founded by the Hollenbeck Police Business Council as a result of the 1970 East L.A. riot. The founders' goal was to create a place where inner-city youth could choose recreation as an alternative to the streets.

Last year, Hernandez instituted the annual Inner-City games as part of the center's plan to provide youths with an option. Hollenbeck has received citywide and national recognition for its delinquency-prevention work with youths.

"The kids really enjoyed the games last year," said Jose Correa, program director for Hollenbeck. "When the games were over, (the kids) kept asking us when it was going to happen again. When we told them next year, they asked, 'Why so long?' Most of them came back days later to play in the youth center and have been talking about this year's competition ever since."

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger will return as executive commissioner for this year's games.

Events are open to the public, and ticket prices vary for each event.

Information: (213) 263-4989.

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