WATSONVILLE -- Parents are on the front lines of the battle to curb drug use, gang violence and petty crime among youth.
But in a community where many parents are immigrants adapting to a new culture and navigating unfamiliar institutions figuring out what to do and how to access resources can be challenging.
E.A. Hall Middle School and the Watsonville Police Department have teamed up to help, offering a series of parent education workshops, titled Unidos Salimos Adelante -- United We Move Forward.
The aim is to give parents the tools they need to tackle issues affecting their families and neighborhoods.
"We want them to have confidence in themselves. We want them to have confidence in police officers. We want them to have confidence in each other," said police Lt. Jorge Zamora.
About 60 parents attended the second workshop, held Tuesday in the auditorium at E.A. Hall. A previous workshop focused on immigration and the role of police in an attempt to clear up misunderstandings that lead to mistrust. The final two sessions will be about gangs and drug and alcohol use.
Tuesday's session concentrated on crime prevention and community safety. Officers provided tips on how to secure homes and vehicles, as well as how to report crime or suspicious activity.
The conversation revealed misconceptions about the workings of emergency services. Several people thought, for instance, that they'd be charged a fee if they called
Zamora said as more people learn how things really work, good information will "trickle out" into the community.
The program is designed to not only provide information, but, through discussion and practice exercises, also to get people thinking about how to use it, said school counselor JoAnn Borbolla.
"It's a solution-based approach," she said.
Ironically, as parents, police and school leaders met Tuesday, a shooting a few blocks away provided evidence of the seriousness of the need for solutions.
It can be discouraging sometimes, Borbolla acknowledged. Students returned from winter break in January to find their school tagged by gang signs. A few days later, an 18-year-old was shot and killed on Second Street.
But Borbolla said she thinks the workshops, a pilot project that could be extended to other schools next year, will make a difference. That's why she's willing to go beyond her 40-hour work week to make the project a success. It's why police officers are volunteering their time to make presentations.
"You have to start somewhere," Borbolla said. "That's the investment we're making, an investment in our students. We have to figure out how we can support them so they can become responsible, successful members of our community."
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IF YOU GO
Unidos Salimos Adelante
WHAT: Workshops aimed at helping parents tackle social issues facing children, community; presented in Spanish with English translation
WHO: Sponsored by E.A. Hall Middle School and the Watsonville Police Department
WHEN: 6:15-8:30 p.m. Tuesday on gangs; 6:15-8:30 p.m. Feb. 12, drugs and alcohol
WHERE: E.A. Hall Middle School, 201 Brewington Ave., Watsonville