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placeholder Fremont parishioners lobby for teen center in an effort to combat violence

Former parochial administrator in Brentwood dies at 62

New pastor assumes leadership at Our Lady of Grace

Piedmont parishioner assesses post-quake Haiti

Early evidence of devotion to apostles found in catacombs

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OBITUARIES
• Sister Mary Margaret Hewlecke, OP
• Sister Gerarda Marie Joubert, SNJM
• Sister M. Christian Koch, CSC

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placeholder July 5, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 13   •   Oakland, CA
Fremont parishioners lobby for teen center
in effort to combat violence

Bring up the fact that the Bay Area’s fourth largest city lacks a modern-day teen center and you will get a resounding affirmation of the facility’s need from a group of Fremont residents and students who are feverishly working to turn a need into a reality. They belong to several Tri-City churches that are part of 13 faith-based congregations that make up Congregations Organizing for Renewal.

They say the current facility — the former main library building situated next to Lake Elizabeth in Central Park — is inadequate for today’s youth. The city rents out the building, near the lake’s boat dock, for meetings and conferences. When it is not being rented out, it serves as Fremont’s teen center.

But, “there’s nothing to do there,” said Daniel Ney, 20, a member of St. Joseph Parish and a COR leader. “There are no activities for teens and young people. It’s just a place to meet. But, once you’re there, there’s nothing for anyone to do but hang out.”

An adequate teen center, Ney added, needs what he called “the creative elements,” such as recording studio, dance studio and art studio.

Ney, a Union City resident and student at California State University East Bay, said he was involved in music during his years as a student at James Logan High School.

Difficult to find a place

“From the time I was 13, I’ve played drums and guitar in a series of bands, and played shows throughout the area,” he said. “But one of the problems with playing in a band is that it’s difficult sometimes to find a place and time to play that wouldn’t disturb neighbors.”

Having a small recording studio contained within a teen center would allow young people with similar creative mindsets to interact with each other, Ney said.

As of now, the city has no intention of modifying the existing teen center. However, COR leaders are busy trying to convince Fremont officials to transform a building in the Centerville District into a modern-day youth center.

Their campaign, begun eight months ago, included correspondence about their proposal to City Council members. To date, according to COR, Bill Harrison and Anu Natarajan, have expressed favorable interest. They are awaiting responses from Mayor Bob Wasserman and Council members Suzanne Chan and Bill Wiekowski. The next step will be placing the proposal on the Council’s agenda.

Spacious building sitting empty

The spacious brick building, at the corner of Peralta Boulevard and Dusterberry Way, was once home to a Mercedes-Benz dealership. Since the dealership relocated to the Fremont Auto Mall several years ago, the building has sat empty except for a short period of time when it served as a Goodwill store outlet.

Fremont eventually purchased the building, along with the 3.5 acres surrounding it, with the idea of adding the parcel to its long-range plans for redeveloping the neighborhood.

Cynthia Ney, a St. Joseph parishioner and COR leader, is among those advocating for a center there to help teens stay clear of crime and violence.

“The youth here feel disconnected,” she said. “They have a deep understanding of drugs, violence and lack of opportunities for youth in Fremont. In fact, 60 percent of students in this area say they have been personally impacted by violence of some kind.”

Ney believes that COR’s push for a new teen center will be effective because the proposal carries the weight of the organization’s 13 congregations, Catholic and non-Catholic, representing “25,000 families strong.”

“When we have an issue that we support, we have a lot of power,” she said.
That Fremont already has a teen center near Lake Elizabeth is a non-issue, she said, because that facility is closed to teens most of the year. A recent survey by COR showed that only 26 percent of survey participants had used that center and only to attend dances.

Need a proactive place

“We need a youth center that will provide more than just a place to go,” she said. “We need a place that could have a career center, where students could go to learn more about their career goals. We need a teen center to be a proactive place. For Fremont and the Tri-City area (which includes Newark and Union City), we have none.”

COR leader Miriam Keller, also a parishioner at St. Joseph Parish, believes an appealing teen center is a key component to curbing the increase in crime and violence in the Cabrillo neighborhood, site of the proposed new center. Once a thriving community, it has been in decline since a number of car dealerships moved out.

In recent months, the COR team documented four stabbings and two shootings in the area and in the city’s Irvington District. In each of these incidents, youth and young adults were involved.

In 2009, the FBI released information that gang members are migrating from urban areas to suburban communities like Fremont, expanding their influence, increasing their illegal drug distribution territories, and recruiting new members.

However, Emilio Garcia, representing the Cabrillo COR group, said the youth contributing to crime in Fremont are not necessarily coming from out of the city.

‘Feel they have no alternatives’

“These are the kids who are living on the inside, in Fremont, who we have grown up with, gone to school with, and they feel they have no alternatives but to turn to crime,” said Garcia.

Garcia added that he knows teens who feel as if they have no purpose.

“I listen to my brother and his friends. I look around at the youth and I see kids who don’t know where they’re going, or how to get there,” he said. “We can help them.”

The proposed teen center could serve students from nearby American and Washington high schools and Thornton and Centerville junior high schools.

Jacky Johnson of Youth Uprising believes that putting a youth center in the middle of the neighborhood where violence and crime occur could “transform an entire community. It’s exactly the place you want to put a youth center.”

No definitive cost to convert the building into a teen center has been set, but COR estimates it would be in the millions of dollars.

 
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