“I thought there was no hope for me.”
From neighborhoods that have been troubled by gang violence, a new generation of high school students leaders and positive role models is emerging, thanks to two innovative efforts in the Long Beach Unified School District.
Project TEAM’s intensive counseling efforts and the new Male Academy’s empowerment of at-risk young men are changing lives and futures. Fewer clashes and reduced tensions between races have been reported by schools this fall because of student involvement in these life-changing interventions.
“In the ninth and tenth grades, I was wild,” Arnulfo Osuna, a Jordan senior told the Board of Education at a recent workshop. “I was off the wall. I was a disaster.”
There was a lot of racial tension at school, he said. Then Project TEAM stepped in.
“My counselor said something to me. He grabbed me where I was standing and began working with me.” Arnulfo has improved his attendance and grades, he began to see himself as college material and this summer joined the Male Academy.
He went to Cal State Long Beach for a symposium with at-risk minority students who were potential leaders from all Long Beach high schools.
“Right now I’m in El Camino College, attending high school and college at the same time. The Male Academy is Latinos, Hispanics, Asians, Polynesians — we’re all together. We’re basically the leaders. We all get along. We talk to the younger students at school. We’ve prevented a lot of fights. I appreciate this program. I like it. It’s really helped me. It’s still helping me out.”
Robert Neal, Jr., a Poly junior, had a similar experience with the Male Academy.
“In the past, I had problems with all different kinds of peers, but the Male Academy brought us all together. At Camp Oakes, I met a lot of students who were really into the gang stuff. I live in an area with lots of gangs. I learned to just walk away because of the Male Academy.
“They have helped me and pretty much everybody I hang out with,” he said. “They let me know that I can be a leader. In ninth and tenth grade, I had no plans to go to college, but now I know that I have a future. I didn’t know I could be somebody and that I had a future. Not only could I be somebody, I could be a leader.”
Male Academy events this year include team building in its Brotherhood Institute, field trips to CSULB, a UCLA football game and “I’m Going to College” program, the Museum of Tolerance, the Museum of Latin American Art, African American Museum and USC tour, a career center orientation, motivational speakers, a presentation by 100 Black Men of Los Angeles and a beach clean up to build peer relationships.