Conference hopes to inspire young women

DOWNEY - Ever since it was formed in 1995 as an offshoot of Gangs Out of Downey the 10-20 Club has tried to contribute towards the amelioration and upliftment of troubled teenagers as they try to deal with life's many, and too often harsh, challenges and issues.In almost all cases victims of circumstances, these young people come from broken homes or they're sucked into doing questionable, even illegal, activities by peer pressure or they simply yield to any of a variety of temptations available to them. The problems youth has to deal with could be overwhelming, even with the intervention of institutions and/or agencies purposely designed to assist them. The age in which they find themselves (in the 10-20 year-old age range) is especially pivotal as they struggle to transition from boyhood/girlhood to young manhood/young womanhood when a deeper sense of responsibility should take hold. This is where the 10-20 Club comes in. Recognizing that these individuals need all the help they can get, its services/programs include a family support/parenting group program, community service, anger management awareness, drug and alcohol diversion program, drug testing (urine analysis), crisis intervention, and individual conflict resolution counseling. It also gives out scholarships and maintains a Speakers Bureau (pontificating on such topics as gangs, drugs, parenting, vandalism and self-esteem). The cases reaching the 10-20 Club, which subsists on fees and quarterly donations from GOOD. (donations are tax-deductible), come from such sources as the Downey Unified School District, the city of Downey, Norwalk Superior Court, Los Padrinos Juvenile Court, the Rio Hondo Probation Department, and, in the case of individual counseling, walk-ins. Running the show and conducting most of the programs/services himself is founder and president, Darrell Jackson, former Minnesota Twins pitcher. Next Friday, the 10-20 Club is trying something new. For the first time ever, it's holding a Young Ladies Conference with the young women ages 13-18 it's working with in its individual counseling program ("It's our policy to isolate the pre-teens from the older teens, for risk of negative influence," said Jackson), as a way of inspiring them to stay the course and achieve success in their lives. The keynote speaker will be Verna Griffin, the mother of Dr. Dre, the highly successful hip-hop music producer. Griffin, who chronicles her rise from poverty to one of "privilege", now leads a productive life of authorship, business, and other interests of her own. She has written a two-part autobiography, and she has plenty to say about the zig-zag path her early life took as she faced crisis after crisis in her efforts to secure a modicum of normalcy and stability for herself and brood, including Dr. Dre, and her eventual triumph over all sorts of adversity. Also speaking is psychologist Dr. Keisha Paxton, professor of psychology at Cal State Dominguez Hills. The club will at the same time pay tribute to the memory of both Mary Helen Aguilar, 33-year DUSD employee and 10-20 Club volunteer who died five weeks ago, as well as that of Maurice Hilliard, program director at Pepperdine University's Boone Center for the Family and the university's athletic chaplain, who was Jackson's nephew; he was originally scheduled to speak at Friday's conference, but Jackson says Hilliard died suddenly of natural causes just three days ago. According to Jackson, the problems confronting the young women who will take part in the conference (he calls the young ladies "diamonds in the rough" - the conference theme) may stem from anything traumatic that leads to a loss of self-esteem to problems associated with alcohol, lack of interest in education, shoplifting, sexual promiscuity and teen pregnancies, divorce, truancy issues, drug abuse, defiance to family authority (running away from home, etc.). In other words, the issues the 10-20 Club handles are "nothing deeply serious, but they're nothing trivial either." The problems associated with more serious crimes involving gangbanging, drug dealing, violent crimes, etc., are dealt with by professional psychologists and the like, Jackson said. Frances Rivera, a 5-year veteran volunteer who is on the 10-20 Club board, and is a secretary with the district attorney's office in Los Angeles assigned to the Hearing Officers program at the Downey Superior Court, conducts the one-on-one counseling sessions with the young ladies; Jackson handles the boys'. These sessions, says Jackson, seek to provide an "environment of trust." Diego Hernandez, another volunteer and a former client, coordinates the club's community service program. This formula so far has succeeded, no less because, especially in these straightened economic times, says Jackson, the club has been wringing out a full dollar's worth out of every dollar spent. Rounding out her staff is 10-20 Club office manager Melissa Molina. Jackson says among the surprise goodies Friday will be a raffle, with the winner receiving two tickets to a Celine Dion show at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Jackson hopes the conference will kick start the 10-20 Club in a new, game-changing direction.

********** Published: March 15, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 48