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Familia Unida: Keeping kids away from drugs and crime by teaching them to work with their hands

Jun 13, 2024, 9:20 PM

A local organization is keeping kids away from crime and drugs one bike at a time. (KDRV via CNN Ne...

A local organization is keeping kids away from crime and drugs one bike at a time. (KDRV via CNN Newsource)

(KDRV via CNN Newsource)

JACKSON COUNTY, OR (KDRV) — A local organization is keeping kids away from crime and drugs one bike at a time. Familia Unida is a nonprofit that teaches children to channel aggression and negative experiences into healthy and constructive life skills through activities such as bike and car building.

The youth in the program learn these skills in groups as well as in one-on-one settings. Aside from building bikes and cars the youth assist in the community, participating in giveaways and community efforts such as graffiti cleanup.

The organization started by Rico Gutierrez and his wife provides mentorship to the youth, many of whom are at-risk, teaching them that they have a community that cares for them and they have many different options for their lives.

“The acronym of thug is traumatic human unable to grieve,” Gutierrez said.

That’s the life he lived before recovery from addiction — now he shows the children that they don’t have to be alone in handling life’s stress,

“I tell these kids it’s OK to cry, I try to tell them it’s okay to get emotional,” Gutierrez said.

Many of the youth who come in feel misunderstood or like they don’t have a community. The mentors at Familia Unida try to change their mind and the minds of a community that the children often feel doesn’t support them.

“We’re showing that the kids aren’t bad,” said lead volunteer coordinator Angela Brumana, “All kids need is some guidance and some love, and they can do anything they want.”

The organization is a part of the K.E.Y. Project (Keep Encouraging Youth). The project is a collaboration between the Gang Prevention Task Force, Jackson County Community Justice, Spartan Boxing and LifeArt.

One of the youth, Jessie Gomez, mentioned how the group helped to get him on the right path.

“I didn’t kick it with the right kind of people, and coming here they tell me all about the mistakes they made and how they learned from it and I was like ‘They’re the proof’,” he said, “I guess I learned from their stories.”

Gomez recently celebrated graduating high school, a feat he thanks the program for helping him accomplish.

Another participant in the program, Sheyla Valerio, expressed gratitude for the mentorship she gained through the program. She said she opened up through the community it provided her.

She said she is proud of how much herself and her life has changed since starting the program.

“Coming here was a great opportunity for me,” she said, “They helped me understand that I have something to live for.”

Click here for updates on this story.

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Familia Unida: Keeping kids away from drugs and crime by teaching them to work with their hands