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Housing Project Gets Youth Program

May 30, 1996|ERIC WAHLGREN

Faced with the challenge of keeping youths in south Oxnard off the streets, civic leaders have decided to try a new tack.

Instead of counting on youngsters to attend after-school programs outside their neighborhoods, youth advocates have launched a program smack in the middle of Pleasant Valley Village, the city's second-largest housing project.

More than 50 children and community leaders packed a community room on Squires Drive on Wednesday for the grand opening of the Boys & Girls Club of Oxnard's Squires Unit.

"We can stay out of gangs," said 12-year-old Raymond Lopez, referring to the center, which serves as a haven by offering daily activities, including board games, movies, sports and field trips.

"We can come here because there is a lot going on," Raymond said.

The club is open to about 400 children who live in the 100-unit housing project at no cost to residents.

Although officials kicked off the program Wednesday, it unofficially began in March with a $24,000 federal grant administered by the Oxnard Housing Authority and matching money from the Boys & Girls Club of Oxnard.

Rosa Villa, director of operations for the Boys & Girls Club of Oxnard, said youngsters are more likely to take part in the activities because they never need to get a ride or take a bus to reach the center.

"It is a program that has come to them," Villa said. "Because the area has had difficulty with crime and gangs, it gives them alternatives."

After short speeches by local and club officials, City Councilman Andres Herrera and police officers, the youths swarmed a food table laden with mini-pizzas, ice cream and vanilla wafers.

As two clowns behind her danced to pop tunes, 13-year-old Daisy Oliva said she was glad the club had opened in her neighborhood.

"You're not in the streets," Daisy said. "There's a lot of danger out there."

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