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Intersections: Advocating for the community's youth

January 11, 2012|By Liana Aghajanian

With its safety record, bustling business environment and “perfect night-to-day activities” — as a recent Sunset magazine article described it — you can't find too much to complain about in the self-sustaining suburb of Glendale.

But when it comes to youth services, the Jewel City is suffering — city documents show they are a high-priority need that's not getting enough attention. Some community leaders fear the absence of programs coupled with economic woes are leading young people to silently fall through the cracks.

The city hopes to change that, according to the 2010-15 Consolidation Plan, which calls for a community-wide strategy and coordination to develop youth programs.

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Moises Carrillo, senior community development supervisor of the Community Services and Parks Department who worked on the report, said the plan intends to improve youth and teen welfare by addressing gang activity, drugs and education.

About $4.4 million in funding from the Community Development Block Grant Program will be used for youth programs — with an additional $250,000 for youth programs related to crime and public safety — to create recreational activities, day care centers and after-school programs, tutoring and youth counseling.

As youth development advocate and industry veteran Ara Arzumanian knows, the need for programs that address these issues is dire, especially in a city where leadership needs to dig deep to find those impacted.

“There's not a whole lot of violent crime or burglary, it's relatively safe,” he said about Glendale. “It's not even a crime issue. It's about quality of life, development of our community and specifically development of adults.”

Arzumanian, then-director of the Glendale-based AGBU Generation Next Mentorship Program and now vice president of the mentoring program of Big Brothers Big Sisters Los Angeles, spoke of the problems he saw with the young people he worked with.

Whether it was gang activity, fraud or suicidal thoughts, the core of the problem, he said, always came down to the same thing — that as adults, we've abandoned them.

“We're not involved in their lives,” he said. “We kind of abandon them as teenagers, and we do it benignly.”

And by we, he means everyone.

“It's not just an Armenian thing, and it's not just a non-Armenian thing...everyone is affected,” he said.

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