A Look Back As Soy Approaches Its 20th Year—2013
It seems like yesterday when a small group of parents met to discuss their concerns about rising violence among Costa Mesa’s youth. It was 1992 and the city had just experienced its first drive-by shooting. The parents didn’t want their teens to be drawn into gangs or street life. They met with City Manager Allan Roeder and other city staff to express their concerns. With City Councilman Joe Erickson leading the way, the City agreed there needed to be an alternative to the lure of street life, so they provided space at Rea Center, but it was up to the parents to provide and sustain the program. And so Save Our Youth was born. Share Our Selves acted as an umbrella agency until SOY became incorporated in 1993 and had its own federal tax number.
The parents and some community supporters got to work accumulating donated furniture, computers, pool tables, weights and exercise machines, even mirrors and padded gym flooring as well as a boxing ring to attract the kids. Many teenage boys flocked to the new center and when a Girls’ Program was started teen girls also came. The greatest early lift was an amazing donor who contributed money for over 16years to establish an innovative scholarship program which paid students for good grades and awarded them a grant upon graduating equal to the amount of money they earned during their years at SOY. Almost $2,000,000 were allocated to hundreds of SOY graduates who went on to colleges all over California. They draw the money down as they need it for college expenses.
From that humble beginning, SOY is now a full service organization, as these pages illustrate. Its numerous programs serve almost 400 teens. Because of financial cutbacks, SOY is operating with only two dedicated staff and has had to eliminate much of the scholarship program, but a core of dedicated volunteers and growing numbers of donors are helping to keep the Center open to fulfill its mission of serving Costa Mesa’s youth at risk. SOY is extremely grateful for the community support it has received these past 20 years.
Soy Honors These 3 Community Members For Their Commitment To The Teens Of Save Our Youth For 20 Years
JOE ERICKSON former Mayor and long-time member of the Costa Mesa City Council, was instrumental in the early formation of SOY. He was a voice for SOY on the City Council and smoothed the way for us to begin operations at Rea Center, which at that time was leased by the City from the Newport Mesa Unified School District for a community center housing many non-profits. He helped SOY form a close association with the city of Costa Mesa and the Costa Mesa Police Department, which still exists today. Joe was on the original SOY Board of Directors and served for many years. He has been a strong supporter and advocate of SOY ever since.
CARMEN BARRIOS has been the heart and soul of SOY for 20 years. She was one of the original mothers whose concern for their teenagers’ exposure to gangs spotlighted the needs of the kids to the local community and city leaders. She was one of the founders of SOY and organized Madres, a group of mothers who still meet at SOY to discuss and act on the problems facing their children and families. Carmen was a member of SOY’s original Board and became our second employee, acting as assistant to the Director and mother figure giving tough love to all our teens. She stills volunteers her time to make SOY a safe and welcoming place for her kids.
IVAN CALDERON is a Costa Mesa treasure and has been a mainstay of support for SOY in the business community. He met with Roy Alvarado early on about the teens at risk in Costa Mesa and always offered his services wherever he could help. He has served as a mentor to our SOY kids over the years and has trained them in serving and helping in community events in Lions Park and throughout the city. Ivan has donated his time, talent, and resources over the years, and opened his restaurant Taco Rosa to start our Fiesta tradition. He served on the SOY Board for several years involving many other businesses to support SOY, and he has generously underwritten all the food and drinks at this 5th Anniversary Fiesta celebrating our 20th year of service to our community’s youth.
We would also like to thank and acknowledge our anonymous donor, whose generosity through the years provided close to two million dollars in incentives to SOY students to stay in school, make good grades and earn an equal amount of scholarship funds to attend college. There is a saying that the best thing we can do for our children is to give them roots and wings. Our fabulous donor provided both to hundreds of SOY students.