One Dead End After Another 

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Just as Jose Hernandez’s story [“Dead End,” Nov. 11, City Weekly] moved Sonjia Ogawa, her letter [“How Can I Help,” Letters, Nov. 18, City Weekly] moved me. In her letter, she asks, “Is there not some program or policy in place to help these kids …”

The policy was called the DREAM Act, which the U.S. Senate recently failed to pass. Its purpose was to provide a pathway to citizenship for college-bound undocumented youth. Unfortunately, the DREAM Act is just another act of discrimination for the 486,000 undocumented youth like Jose who are excluded from that dream.

The program in place is The Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The mission is to “Inspire and empower youth, especially those youth most disadvantaged, to realize their full potential …”

I couldn’t agree with Ogawa more when she wrote, “Jose deserves just as much of a chance as anyone born here.” I would add that Jose certainly deserved just as much of a chance as anyone in the Midvale Boys & Girls Club to volunteer his services.

It was stunning to see the Midvale Boys & Girls Club executive director, Bob Dunn, point to Jose’s criminal record as the reason for denying Jose’s volunteer application. He had no problem pointing to Jose’s accomplishments when it came to the club’s 2004 State of Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice Request Proposal—a proposal that brought $10,000 to the club based on the strength of Jose’s well-documented talent for dissuading kids like himself from joining gangs.

In a letter written by Dunn to all his employees, he states, “We want the kids that no one else wants. It is part of our mission to keep them off the streets, which is where they go when they’ve been ‘kicked’ out.”

What I witnessed was that it was this club, the club Ogawa’s kids go to, that kicked” our kids out, and put them back on the streets. When you add it all up, it amounts to our complete and utter abandonment of kids like Jose: First by their families, then by the club that was built for them and now again by the policymakers of the DREAM Act. It’s just one “dead end” after another for these kids.

It’s hopeful to hear a voice like Ogawa’s. She sounds like a compassionate and thoughtful woman. My efforts to correct the situation at the Midvale club fell on deaf ears. Perhaps they’ll listen to her.

Walt Hunter
Former Midvale Boys & Girls Club gang-prevention specialist
Salt Lake City

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