Barrier breaker: Gilroy’s Party in the Park

Registered dental assistant Maria Castillo performs a dental screening on Bryan Gonzalez, 12, at the Foothill Community Health Center booth during Party in the Park July 11 at San Ysidro Park. This event, aimed at public safety, is the second of three eve

Gilroy party-goers rang in the early evening Friday, July 11 at San Ysidro Park to the sound of deejay music, undulating zumba dancers and a cacophony of police sirens.
This was no boisterous party, however.
Party in the Park Summer Series, a free three-part series promoting community involvement in one of Gilroy’s public parks, invited residents to partake in an evening of community building. Part two in the series focused on public education with a full entourage of public service providers on-hand to dole out resources, information and provide guidance on how to access them.
“I walk with peace, liberty and freedom in my heart,” said Adrian Escalante, a former gang member on hand to mentor youth.
According to South County Youth Task Force coordinator Bernice Aguilera, the event promoted family usage of the park in a safe, proactive manner. Aguilera was one of several youth advocates on hand offering resources.
“This is (the community’s) park,” Aguilera said. “We want to invite our youth and their families.”
San Ysidro Park—known colloquially as El Parque de los Cholos, or “Cholo Park”—has seen its fair share of challenges, including gang infiltration, graffiti and loitering, according to Aguilera. The July 11 event countered some of those past activities with a healthy dose of positivity.
That’s exactly what community advocate Reymundo Armendariz wants for his community: a sense of ownership that supersedes any of those past activities.
Emulating the Los Angeles-based public-private partnership Summer Night Lights program, Friday’s party wasn’t just about family; it was about mitigating effects on families who have lost a loved one to gang violence or felt the effects of their presence in the neighborhood.
“We’re really trying to reduce violence by building community,” Caballero said.
Jhoselyn Patricia, Cristina Solano and Carla Montes were among a handful of youth participants. The trio said they were excited about the event. They stood alongside city officials like Gilroy City Councilman Deon Bracco checking out the Bearcat, an armored vehicle deployed by Gilroy Police Department’s S.W.A.T. team. Bracco said he’s all for events like Party in the Park.
“Any time you can get these young kids resources in a positive light is good,” Bracco said.
The event featured a public safety resource fair, deejay entertainment, juvenile Jeopardy, a crime prevention panel, raffle and a police and fire department friendly rivalry basketball tournament.
Who’s involved
City of Gilroy, South County Task Force, Gilroy Youth Alliance and South County United for Health, State CalGRIP, and the centers for Disease Control and Prevention coordinated the event.
The next event will be held Aug. 8 and will focus on community resources with a soccer clinic, youth employment workshop, community resource fair, healthy relationships panel, deejay entertainment, handball tournament, raffle and incentive prizes.
For more information, call (408) 846-0460.