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Save Our Youth reaches a milestone

April 13, 2003

Oscar Santoyo knows how to keep a promise. He's been doing so for

years at Save Our Youth, where he works as executive director.

Every year, he promises children at the center that if they raise

their grade point averages, they can cut or shave his hair.

Sometimes, they even dye it. In 1999, he said, "They gave me a Mr. T

cut. It looked pretty awful, but a deal's a deal."

The Estancia High graduate has also taken pies in the face from

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time to time.

Santoyo and others at Save Our Youth have shown this kind of

commitment throughout the 10-year existence of the Westside center

and have encouraged those who use the facilities to do the same. And

it has paid off.

The nonprofit that provides an alternative to gangs and street

life does more than that. It provides recreational needs that are not

necessarily available in the area for low-income families. Those

include the fully-equipped boxing center and softball games against

the Costa Mesa City Council.

Save Our Youth also goes out of its way to help teens succeed. It

donates scholarships to make college a bit more accessible. It

provides after school tutoring for middle and high school students.

In an area of Costa Mesa that people constantly ask the City

Council to improve, Save Our Youth is doing just that. It's working

hard on a labor of love to enable those living on the Westside to

succeed. It's providing something that might otherwise not be

available.

Save Our Youth should serve as an example not only to other

nonprofits, but also to the various naysayers who claim that Westside

nonprofits only attract illegal immigrants and, thus, raise the crime

rates.

It seems Save Our Youth aims to do quite the opposite: lower crime

rates by reducing gang membership. Perhaps those who criticize the

city's nonprofits should do a little less arguing and a little more

volunteering. Save Our Youth and those who use the center would

welcome the help -- and benefit from it.

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