SEATTLE – Safety and security tops the list of concerns for youth in White Center. A King County youth sports grant could be one of the ways to help kids stay on the right track and out of a life of trouble.
A new housing development signals a fresh start for families calling White Center home. A new Starbucks and Popeye’s restaurant make up part of the economic boost in the area. But King County sheriff’s vehicles remain as a reminder of the area’s tough reputation.
“There’s a reputation about the community, but I’ve always felt safe,” said White Center Community Development Association community engagement manager Aaron Garcia.
Lifelong White Center resident Aaron Garcia has dedicated his life to helping teens be successful.
“Along the way, you saw the kids and you saw their potential, you saw their success, we just didn’t live up to it,” said Garcia.
Three teenagers are now charged with the first-degree murder of 15-year-old Derek Juarez Lopez known as Peachy. His memorial still stands at this Westcrest Park. A grim reminder of what can happen when teenagers make bad decisions.
“Where did we as a community drop the ball? What opportunity wasn’t there?” asked Garcia.
While some kids fall off the track, this community is doing everything it can to cradle those working toward a bigger goal. That’s why Garcia applied for a youth sports. With $77,100 over two years, Evergreen High student athletes will go to sports summer camps on college campuses.
“When they could be off during other more illegal things, they could be on a university campus learning about college, sports,” said Evergreen High student Elizabeth Bibb.
It’s an opportunity Bibb could have this summer. As a member of the Evergreen High wrestling team, she credits sports to keeping her on the straight and narrow.
“Before I did sports, I really didn’t do that good in school. You know C’s get degree? It was garbage,” said Bibb.
Now, she’s excelling inside and outside the classroom.
“This will motivate them more to push themselves more in the sport,” said Evergreen High student athlete Jon Carlo Cortez.
Cortez saw friends fall prey to negativity.
“Probably hanging out with the wrong crowd because a lot of my friends I know got influenced. So if I would’ve stayed around them, I probably would’ve went down the wrong path,” said Cortez.
But those bad influences didn’t take hold of him thanks to sports. Next year, he plans to go to UW like his two older brothers.
“Regardless of the circumstances of that student, any kid can be successful,” said Garcia.
Given the right support and resources. The sports grant would cover transportation and housing along with the experience of a summer sports camp at a college campus. Another way to steer kids in the right direction.
Garcia says the kids who get these scholarships are expected to give back to other kids in the area. The Salvation Army of White Center also received about $80,000 in grant money to improve its sports facilities there.