The GAP program, part of the “My Gangfree Life” anti-gang mission, reported positive gains at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Carson City Council. Since 2002, GAP (Gang Alternative Program) has distributed more than $250,000 in Carson, promoting anti-gang activities and recently allocated $10,000 for the city’s elementary schools as part of its “Step Up” after-school initiative.

“We want to eliminate the ‘base’ of gang problems and change individuals, families and the community itself,” said Sue Ann Ballat, an administrator with GAP’s public and governmental affairs department.

“Our ‘Step Up’ program has been very successful in providing alternatives to kids who may be at risk of joining a gang.”

GAP increased its outreach in Carson after a local 16-year-old boy was killed in a 2007 drive-by shooting. Officials found that violent crimes by and against juveniles peak during the immediate hours after school. Step Up partners with the Los Angeles Unified School District to provide after-school programs to increase academic performance and to provide enrichment activities, including art, music, sports and homework assistance.

The GAP program began in Paramount and offers second-, fourth- and sixth-grade classroom curriculum, exposing children to both the realities of gang involvement and the alternatives. Youngsters learn about the history of gangs, gang attire, graffiti and gang behavior in general.

Other lessons examine the consequences of gang involvement and its effect on their families and futures.

The students are introduced to positive alternatives and techniques for achievement, and are encouraged and assisted to set goals and make positive lifestyle choices.

“The GAP program is a genuine blessing to Carson,” said Councilwoman Lula Davis-Holmes. “It changes the lives of young people. I am a big supporter of GAP … you call me anytime you need something.”

In another nod toward Carson youth development, former heavyweight gold medalist Henry Tillman announced that he is working with the Amateur Athletic Union to return boxing to the city. “Without our youth being strong both physically and mentally, we could lose our next generation,” said Tillman who, as an amateur, twice defeated Mike Tyson. His gold medal came at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. “We look forward to opening a gym here; the young people are our future and sports can teach character, discipline and teamwork.”

A contingent of graduate students from California State University, Dominguez Hills, spoke on what they consider to be the “stigma of HIV/AIDS” among young people, noting that the disease is not exclusively a “sexual problem” but a problem that stigmatizes sexually abused women as well as the LGBT population. Shawnee Isaac, a masters of social work candidate, said many women who have or may be at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS virus are sometimes reluctant to be tested or reveal they are infected because of societal preconceptions of the “loose or promiscuous” woman.

A number of parties petitioned the Council for retention of Community Development Block Grant funds, which are up for review this month. With this in mind, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca wants to expand the department’s Gang Prevention Program to every station. “We provide tutoring, life skills and positive reinforcement to keep kids in school and out of gangs,” said Deputy Fred Noya of the Carson substation. “This program works. We have been able to prevent many kids from falling victim to gang activity in Carson.”

Marvin Clayton, executive director of the Apollo West Carson Players, said his organization continues to provide needed arts education to youth, many of whom are no longer introduced to music and stage production because of cutbacks from the Los Angeles Unified School District. “We have longevity in providing job training for these professions,” Clayton said. “We train in filming, editing, sound engineering and in all aspects of arts production. We also feel this program can help keep kids out of gangs and provide them with a valuable after-school activity.”