By Tammye McDuff
Gangs Out of Downey [G.O.O.D.] was created with support from Downey Unified School District and the Downey Police Department to provide ‘at risk’ youth an environment of addressing the ramifications of good and bad decisions.
In the late 1980’s, Downey began to see an increase in gang related activity. The surrounding cities were beginning to have a difficult time with gang affiliations. With the help of local businessman Phil Presicci, school board member Betty Ferraro, along with district officials Edward Sussman and Stan Hanstad, G.O.O.D was born. Founded in 1989 this program offered counseling to youth, their parents and siblings to create a proactive and positive approach to removing gang activities. “Our purpose is to promote public interest with the three-pronged approach” declared Martha Sodetani, GOOD President “We aim to educate, prevent and intervene ‘at risk’ youth, while combating gang activity in Downey. Working with the City, the DUSD and local churches we implement workshops and strategies regarding the dangers of gang involvement and drug use at the school level.”
Maintaining an annual budget of $30k, GOOD supports free sports and recreational programs, issues scholarships and the national program for elementary children called “Kids on the Block”. The program also sponsors a community policing program increasing onsite campus Police supervision, afterschool & summer sports programs and youth career programs providing employment for students.
An affiliate of GOOD is the renowned “10-20” Club. This organization is geared specifically to youth between the ages of 10 and 20 years of age. Founded by former major league baseball pitcher Darrell P. Jackson, of the Minnesota Twins, this outreach program provides services specifically developed to meet the needs of local school districts, courts, and probation departments in order to educate youth about the hazards of making wrong choices. The 10-20 strives to teach positive choices and the changes that prepare for a brighter future.
GOOD led the way, with an anti bullying campaign at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year. As part of the annual Cyber Safety Focus, DUSD designated the week of September 16th as Anti-Bullying Week. GOOD provided elementary and middle school classrooms with “No Bullying Zone” posters and prevention packets. The poster had such a positive impact on the students, that the same information will be distributed in the high schools and in each City park.
The city of Downey has originated an app for iphones entitled ‘My Downey’. “Basically you take a picture of graffiti that you might find within the city limits” says Sodetani “ and it will automatically go the city, with the precise location, and the graffiti in removed within 24 hours.” The idea behind this new addition is to discourage tagging and the claiming of gang territory
Sodetani was recently approached by a young woman at the annual GOOD luncheon. “This young lady said that 21 years ago she was in a very bad place,” says Sodetani “ she told me GOOD helped her break the cycle that she was trapped in. Today that young lady is the CEO to yet another program, helping to alleviate the corruption of our youth.”
For more information or volunteer contact Downey City Hall or visit the website at gangsoutofdowney.org/wordpress/