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Youth Group Survives with Help of Edison Grant

After the funding ran out for OC Human Relations' Esperanza youth group, its leaders have taken up the cause with help from Southern California Edison and the San Clemente Collaborative.

In the San Clemente Co-op community market building on Los Molinos, leaders of a now-defunct youth program have created it anew with help from local organizations.

OC Human Relations had run the Esperanza youth group for some of San Clemente's "at risk" youth. Some of the kids involved had academic problems, others were referred by the Gang Reduction and Intervention Program run by the OC District Attorney's office, while others simply had family members involved and wanted to join, too, said community organizer Rose Velasquez.

and Velasquez got laid off. That's when Southern California Edison stepped in with a grant to keep the program going. The San Clemente Collaborative, a local association of charities, figured there was still a need for the program, which serves middle schoolers, said collaborative president Susan Parmelee.

And they were right judging by the waiting list to get into the after-school group that offers tutoring and other services, Velasquez said. Volunteer Leslie Davis also said plans were in the works to open a new location at the Boys & Girls Club.

The $5,000 pays for stipends for tutors and sports scholarships for high-achieving students, Velasquez said. Kids ― from Bernice Ayers and Shorecliffs middle schools -― earn their way into a sports activity of their choice. Finish Strong Mixed Martial Arts' nonprofit arm, Fighters for the World, is involved in offering boxing, jujitsu and other self-defense training. The grant also pays for club soccer and memberships to Fitness 19.

Maria Romero has three kids in the program -- Luis, Francisco and Angelica. Their grades have drastically improved, and they've become more involved in their school and community, she said in Spanish. The boys play football and her daughter is now at San Clemente High School and serves as a tutor in the program for the younger boys and girls.

The group meets at the Co-op Mondays and Wednesdays.

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CORRECTION: Because of a reporting error, Parmelee's last name was misspelled in an earlier version of this article. Patch regrets the error.

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