Operating in some of the most vulnerable areas in Los Angeles County, the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation is committed to providing underserved and at-risk young people with the resources and support they need to become healthy and successful adults. Inspired by the belief that youth-focused crime prevention programs are an important key to building safer communities, the Foundation runs 17 different Youth Academies throughout LA County. These valuable community facilities provide a safe after-school haven for young people and a diverse range of activities and services, with each center’s offerings being as distinct as the neighborhood it serves.
Beyond the individual activities available at the Youth Academies, the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation also operates a number of broader, organization-wide programs that are designed to provide focused support and resources to youth on a more structured, longer-term basis. These programs include the following:
Making its debut in 2018, the Sheriff’s Scholars program will provide the most promising young people from the organization’s Youth Academies with the mentorship and guidance, practical tools and skills, and financial support they need to get into (and succeed in) the college or university of their choice. The Foundation strongly believes that this program will have a generational impact: transforming the lives not only of the Scholars themselves, but of their families as well, and of generations to come.
To be considered for selection as a Sheriff’s Scholar, students must have a minimum Grade Point Average of 3.3; demonstrated excellence in all areas of high school life; a strong work ethic and sense of accountability; the drive to be a leader; and the will to live with integrity and to make a difference in the world. Chosen Scholars will meet monthly throughout the upcoming school year to discuss progress in school and plans for college with each other; the Scholars will also have the opportunity to meet some of LA’s business, educational, and political leaders for advice and guidance on career choices.
When it comes to the practical aspects of applying for college, Sheriff’s Scholars will receive support from a dedicated college counselor. This mentor will help the students navigate the college application process and identify and apply for scholarships and financial aid opportunities. To help maximize the possibilities of financial support, the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation has also partnered with SCS Noonan Scholars, which allows Sheriff’s Scholars to apply for SCS Noonan Scholarships (SCS Noonan Scholars helps high-achieving, under-represented students to attend and graduate from leading colleges).
A partnership between the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation and the LA County Sheriff’s Department, the Vital Intervention and Directional Alternatives program (VIDA) was first imagined more than 20 years ago by a group of deputy sheriffs in East Los Angeles who wanted to do something to help troubled youths and their families. Today, VIDA is a comprehensive, 16-week redirectional program that supports non-violent, at-risk youth between 11 and 17 years of age, helping to teach the value of effective decision-making and the importance of taking responsibility for the future.
The process begins when a delinquent youth is referred to VIDA by a community agency (these agencies can include courts, law enforcement, school districts, religious institutions, the Department of Child and Family Services, or parents themselves). After being referred, youths go through an intake interview with trained VIDA staff members, who will assess the candidate’s risk level for offending or re-offending (moderate to high risk is the program’s targeted level). Selected participants then attend an orientation session together with their families.
The VIDA program involves mid-week home and school visits from VIDA staff members—these visits are intended to address the participant’s most pressing risk factors, such as educational issues, self-control skills, or substance abuse issues—and all-day Saturday sessions that help participants navigate how they perceive themselves in relation to authority figures and their community. Topics covered in the Saturday sessions include life responsibilities, negative peer groups, community stewardship, and personal health. The final component of the VIDA program is a weekly evening class targeting family issues; participants attend this class with their parents or guardians. At the conclusion of the program, VIDA participants and their families usually emerge with stronger bonds in place, better judgement, and a new take on life.
The five-week Bicycle Education and Registration (BEAR) program is a great opportunity for LA youth to learn critical bicycle safety and repair skills, and to walk away with a new mode of transport. BEAR’s groundbreaking curriculum includes safety tips for riding in different environments; hands-on repair training, during which students work on bikes that have been donated to or confiscated by the Sheriff’s Department; and mentorship from sheriff’s deputies on making good life choices. At the end of the program, participants get to keep the bike they’ve been repairing. Roughly 450 youth between the ages of 7 and 17 complete the BEAR program every year.