Child safety talk at Gavilan

A statewide video conference beamed into Gavilan College this morning, as representatives from South County agencies listened and exchanged their own ideas on how to keep kids safe, especially after school.
Broadcast from the 100th annual conference of the California state Parent Teacher Association in Sacramento, the video conference featured a panel that included Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Sen. Bruce McPherson (R-Santa Cruz). The conference reached 119 sites in 75 cities throughout California.
Members of the invitation-only audience in
Gilroy tackled four issues broadcast on the
video screen, including
•why the after-school hours are difficult; *why the community is successful in dealing
with the period after school;
show to increase the amount of public and
private support in youth security; and
•how to meet the challenges facing collaborative agencies.
The problems South County representatives said they run into are common in other communities around the state. A site in Fresno participating in the conference called in with many of the same issues. They include: few available dollars for after-school programs and staff, lack of transportation to the programs’ facilities and the need to work with the whole family instead of just the children.
Lack of funding seemed to be the biggest issue that agencies, such as the Mexican American Community Services Agency and Rebekah Children’s Home, encounter when trying to provide after-school programs for youth. Having communities spend their funding where they need to would help, McPherson said.
“A key component of what the legislature can do is give local communities more flexibility on how they spend their money,” McPherson said to applause from the Sacramento audience.
Audience members also discussed ways agencies in the community can work together.
“There are a lot of different groups focused on the problem, but getting them together is difficult,” said Dennis Kennedy, mayor of Morgan Hill.
The agencies are able to be successful due in large part to their staff and community support.
“We have some very, very dedicated agencies that are working against some very strong odds,” said Olivia Soza-Mendiola of MACSA.
Dr. Gerry Rodriguez, president of the Hispanic Chamber, credited volunteers and private donors.
“Those kids go on fishing trips and do all sorts of things because of donations,” she said.
The goal of the conference was to get different agencies started on working together to help students stay safe, especially after school.
Marcia Arnold, the coordinator of student support for Gilroy Unified, found the session helpful.
“I think any time you bring people together, it starts you thinking,” she said. “I don’t understand why we don’t have a task force for after-school (programs).”
Arnold said that she plans to take the idea of starting an after-school task force back to the district and try to generate some interest.