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SOY loses a worthy leader

June 12, 2003

Save Our Youth lost a large part of its heart earlier this month when

its longtime executive director resigned for a new gig at the Boys

and Girls Club of San Juan Capistrano.

Oscar Santoyo did everything to inspire youth at the Costa Mesa

nonprofit over the last 10 years. He urged them to accomplish goals,

including going to college, and he provided them incentives.

Among the more well-known incentives he game them was his hair.

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Every year, Santoyo told the teens at the center that if they earned

higher grade point averages, he would let them shave and dye his head

however they wished. If the Estancia High School graduate sported a

red Mohawk for a week, it was of his own doing. But for a good cause.

Santoyo, who gave up a career in radio to help keep teens off the

streets and out of trouble, even tried to join the cast of "Survivor"

three years back to prove another point. "If I can survive on an

island without anything, then [the children] could do anything. They

can go to college and get jobs."

Santoyo didn't know how swim, but vowed to learn if he was chosen

to join the reality show. It turned out that his wife learned she was

pregnant around that time, so he opted not to continue seeking a

place on the show. But again, it proved another great sample of what

Santoyo was all about: leading by example.

Another esteem-booster Santoyo brought to his teens and preteens

was an annual softball game between SOY's crew and members of the

Costa Mesa City Council. Each side poked fun at the other, but again,

it was all for a good cause. It served a dual role: It introduced the

youth to the City Council and vice versa.

Santoyo gave a decade to SOY, and the group is much better off as

a result. Save Our Youth now has a very difficult task: filling his

large shoes. And finding someone willing to part with his or her

hair.

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