Best of America

San Jose, CA: Keeping Kids Away from Gangs

kids at a museum© iStockphoto/Thinkstock
In 2011, residents of more than 50% of the cities, towns and villages in the U.S. cast their votes in the inaugural Reader’s Digest We Hear You America campaign. The top 20 vote-getting towns received grants that allowed them to kick off (or complete) projects to make their communities even better places to live. This is one of those towns.

Want to help your town get the support it deserves? Vote in the 2012 We Hear You America campaign now!

Since 2008, San Jose, CA, has been running the Safe Summer Initiative, a grant program that funds fun, educational, and recreational activities for at-risk youth during the summer months. “It’s Mayor Chuck Reed’s solution to idle hands and idle minds. When youth were idle, they were becoming victims,” said Mario Maciel, the superintendent over the mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force.

In this year alone, the Safe Summer Initiative was able to fund 38 different initiatives, including creative programs, sports instruction, field trips to museums and neighborhood clean-ups, that kept San Jose teenagers engaged during the summer months and away from gang activity and its violence. Maciel reported that “the more positive the programs, the better the outcomes. Year over year, the Safe Summer Initiative has shown reduction in violence.”

In 2011, the Safe Summer Initiative collected a total of $371,000 in funds, topped off by the money it won in the We Hear You America campaign. Using the prize money for the Initiative let others know that youth safety and minimizing street violence are priorities for the city. “In these tough economic times, cities like San Jose have had to make difficult budget cuts,” Mayor Reed said. “Contributions and community support enabled us to keep many of our young people active and engaged in positive activities this summer. This generosity [of the We Hear You America campaign] truly made a difference.”

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