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SOY sends out a distress call

Nonprofit program that serves Westside students is facing a funding crisis, as a well-heeled donor can no longer give. Chairman vows to continue with volunteers, if they must.

March 09, 2012|By Britney Barnes

"These kids are our future," said SOY board member Jean Forbath, who helped start SOY and is the co-founder of another Costa Mesa-based nonprofit, Share Our Shelves (SOS). "If we want a safe, vibrant community, we need to invest in these kids who have so much to offer and just need a little extra push, a little extra care, to become vibrant members, and productive members, of their own community.

"These are kids who have tremendous potential, and they just need to get a sense of themselves as being valuable and empowered."

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It pays to go to school

SOY's after-school program serves about 400 students, about 125 of whom are in its academic program.

The nonprofit accepts children from all backgrounds, though it primarily helps students from the low-income Westside neighborhoods, said Academic Coordinator Silvia Rosales.

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"For most of them, you have the parents who work multiple jobs who are rarely home, just to try to be able to provide for their kids," she said. "Then there are the parents who try to help them through school and want them to go to college, but they don't know any of the ins and outs of what to do.

"For most of the students who are first generation, that's what they need guidance in."

The parents of Estancia junior Erik Cerros, a straight-A student in Advanced Placement classes, have impressed on him the importance of higher education. The 17-year-old has set his sights on Harvard, and SOY is helping him get there with tutoring and a quiet place to study.

Next year, Erik will rely on SOY to revise his college applications and essays.

"I've always wanted to go to college," he said. "It's always been my dream since my parents weren't very educated. I wanted to step up and be something in life."

But like the parents of many of SOY students, Erik's can't help him in his education.

SOY steps in to educate parents on the tools their children need to succeed, said Maria Barragan, Estancia's school community liaison. That's a big aspect of SOY's mission, she said.

Over the last decade, SOY has been a resource for students who don't get involved in sports or other extracurricular activities, or those who need more guidance than they get at their school.

"The resources are so limited here, and we have counselors and they are amazing, but they have 300 to 400 students to meet with, and sometimes you need someone else educating the students about what steps they need to take to go to college and what programs are out there," Barragan said.

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