Guadalupe Community Center in Canoga Park helped Miguel Villalobos turn his life around.
Before discovering the center more than two years ago, Miguel said he was fighting a lot, bullying younger kids, setting off car alarms and getting bad grades in math and English.
Since then he has been able to focus his energies in a positive direction.
"I met people in high school who go to the center, and they help me with my homework," said Miguel, 13, of Canoga Park. "I used to get Ds and Fs, but now I get A's and Bs."
With the center's support, Miguel said, he can pursue his goal of playing football or baseball at UCLA or USC instead of seeking mischief. He said another dream of his is to become a doctor or a lawyer so he can support his family.
In addition to getting help from his peers, Miguel participates in Project Amigos, a program in which at-risk youths work with Los Angeles Police Department officers who help to give the young people an alternative social outlet.
Javier Ramos, 22, is a youth coordinator who has led the center's other activities--from Girl Scout meetings to basketball tournaments to folklorico dance classes--for about 80 area youths who visit the center weekly.
"I always had a place to play basketball and stay out of gangs and trouble. I never had a problem with the police or nothing like that," he said. "If I could help three, four or five kids from getting into trouble, then I've done my job. I'd rather for them to be in here giving me headaches than out on the streets."
This summer, Ramos is planning trips to Magic Mountain, the Getty Center, Zuma Beach and to see the Dodgers play.
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Guadalupe Community Center: (818) 340-2050
* Sports uniforms: $16-$18 each
* Snacks and sodas: $10 per child
* Field trips: $20 per child
* Portable barbecue: $200
* 2 foosball tables: $165 each
* Refurbishing pool table: $250