BETTY ALVAREZ HAM
Betty Alavarez is a dynamic Latina who is the president of City Impact, an outreach to at-risk youth and families in Oxnard, California. She is boldly leaving her mark on the next generation through Las Angelitas, a mentoring program she was instrumental in starting. Las Angelitas is a program of City Impact that uses a holistic approach in helping teens develop leadership skills for resisting social pressure to make unhealthy life choices. Purpose: Las Angelitas is a Latina mentoring program designed to help young girls to experience and work through healthy and responsible rites of passage in order to become a quality woman. The group addresses the emotional and social needs of young latinas and deals with issues such as education, self concept and esteem, personal hygiene, work habits, and knowledge of Mexican-American culture. The mentoring curriculum involves young girls, ages 12 to 16, in positive interaction with Latina females in preparation for adolescence and adulthood. Goal: The goal of Las Angelitas is to direct young Latinas toward education, school involvement and development and growth in their own culture. Consequently, this should minimize gang activity, substance abuse, crime involvement and other penalized activities, which lead them to dropout of school. The basic method by which this goal is met is to provide Latina women and teen participants with time to build personal relationships and thus model Latina womanhood to them.
Recently God opened a big door at a continuation school in our school dis- trict. The principal of the school called us, being familiar with Youth for Christ, and asked if we could start a club on campus as an outreach for their at-risk students. This was an opportunity we couldn’t refuse! The school is about a year old and sits on the grounds of a church. At this time, three portable classrooms serve our 100 students. The fellowship hall of the church is used as a lunchroom, kitchen, and also as a recreation room. The students range from the ages of 17-22. Of the 100 students, 35 are girls. 90% of the girls are either pregnant or already have children. Some of the male students are the fathers. 98 of the kids are Latinos with one Asian and one Caucasian. Most of the kids are un-churched and some seem to have gang affiliations. These are kids who are drop-outs and who have now dropped back in, hoping to get their GED’s for employment purposes. There is a sense of hopelessness that exists in these kids. It is into this hopelessness that we strive to speak love and truth as we meet the educational, social, and spiritual needs of these students. We have permission to bring in guest speakers, show movies, and to provide activities that will motivate young people to dream bigger than the barrio as well as to consider the claims of Christ. We have a team of people who willingly serve as role models and address issues like fatherhood/motherhood and teach skills like filling out a job application and interviewing. This is a new approach methodologically for us, but one in which we see God working. We believe that we have much to offer as we help to transition these young people from darkness to light and from destruction to construction. God is on a search and restore mission, and we are privileged to join Him in that process! Phil Marquez is the Executive Director of Youth For Christ Fresno, CA
Max Torres is a champion youth worker from El Tabernaculo Assembly in Houston Texas. He is one of the Grandfathers of Hispanic youth ministry because he has been faithfully discipling Hispanic students for nearly 20 years. This feat is to be highly commended because all too often our best youth workers move to senior pastorates in order to be validated and compensated. Max and his wife of 20 years, Dahlia, see Hispanic youth ministry as a high call and a high privilige. They believe that there is no higher calling than to be disciple-makers in youth ministry in order to “work ourselves out of a job.” Truthfully, Max and Dahlia have been instrumental in equipping and sending several Hispanic youth workers to other churches who have grown up and developed through their youth ministry. Max says, “I didn’t have someone in my face to challenge me to say no to at-risk behavior. I see myself in these kids and I want to be the role model for them that I never had. If I can help them stay on track long enough for them to respond deeply to God, I know that they will do great things for God.” Max and Dahlia, your lives and ministry are a pattern for us to follow. Thank you for leaving a legacy on the hearts of Hispanic youth and for not using youth ministry as a stepping stone.