"Step Up" Youth Summit

November 20, 2008 6:24:14 PM PST
South Valley leaders received some help from an MTV celebrity on Thursday, in an effort to reduce gang violence.Many of the students said they came away from today's event with a new sense of empowerment and self worth. They heard first-hand about the dangers of gang life, including an inspirational message from the life coach of the MTV show "Made."

Former gang members and drug addicts painted a vivid picture of the downward spiral when you take drugs or get involved with gangs.

The performance by the Victory Outreach Church of San Diego was one of many parts of this year's "Step Up" youth summit. 1,000 Tulare county teenagers were hand-picked to attend the event.

Arlene Marmolejo, a freshman at Redwood High School, says "There's a lot of gangs and we just have to think positive and not join them."

One group literally got a workout while learning about life's tough choices. Community leaders conveyed messages of self-esteem and living above the influence.

Lorenzo Hailey, from the Lifestyles Center, told kids "Once you work harder and get better what happens? It gets easier." Mt. Whitney junior Dulce Ovalle says "It was like you couldn't stop and life is about not giving up and not stopping so you have to just keep going."

Jeff Yalden, a motivational coach on the MTV show "Made," stopped by the summit hoping to inspire youth to be independent. Yalden was impressed by the students and says teenagers just want someone to understand them. He even got to see some of the county's toughest neighborhoods affected by gang violence first-hand.

Jeff Yalden says "There's a lot of gang influence. I met some kids last night when we were driving around one of the communities. I was with the police and I met them and they wanted to make their parents proud."

Many of the students say they see gangs every day at their school.

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