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Groups explain how they help Ceres children

• Youth for Christ mentors at-risk, Children’s Crisis Center prevents child abuse

Groups explain how they help Ceres children

Colleen Garcia of the Children’s Crisis Center, explains how her non-profit agency keeps Ceres area kids from being abused.

POSTED May 15, 2013 9:02 a.m.
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Two local organizations which are making a great difference in the lives of thousands of children in Ceres and Stanislaus County told a gathering of the Ceres Collaborative last Wednesday that there is plenty of room to contribute to the cause.

Ken Sylvia, Director of Mentoring for the Stanislaus County Youth for Christ, explained how he and paid mentors are turning kids away from destructive forces, motivating them to stay in school, and finding ways to better themselves.

Colleen Garcia, executive director of the Stanislaus County Children's Crisis Center, told the collaborative how her agency is preventing the abuse of children before it happens and explained ways the stakeholders and community can help.

The collaborative meets about once a quarter to find ways to improve Ceres as a community and plug Ceres school officials into vital resources for at-risk students. The meeting at the Ceres Community Center was facilitated by Pastor Mark Whitehead of the Victory Assembly of God Church and attended by city, police, school and church leaders.

Sylvia explained that many Ceres youth are benefitting from adults - some 10 who are paid $300 per month and 20 others who volunteer -- who participate in the Next Step Mentoring program to converse and show they care to a student at risk of failing. Those mentors are reaching 150 junior high and high school students and 20 elementary school aged kids.

Last school year, the program has positively impacted many high school students on 14 campuses, said Sylvia. He said 28 of 35 seniors who were destined to fail to graduate did earn their diplomas after being mentored. Half of the students being mentored saw improvements in their grades and 42 percent improved their attendance.

"We are helping you schools, we are making your jobs easier, which I am very proud of," Sylvia told CUSD employees at the luncheon.

He used the example of one kid who completely turned around because of mentors. When Sylvia met Steven two years ago he believed he would "be going to his funeral, or I'd have to go visit him behind glass." He is now earning B's in school and working nearly full-time. During a chat at Taco Bell on Whitmore Avenue, the student told Sylvia that he trusted him after a year of mentoring.

"What would happen if our community came together ... that every kid could say ‘I have a team of loving adults who care about me'?" asked Sylvia. He answered his own question by saying graduation rates would go up, there would be less crime and kids would be a positive contributor to society.

"I want to see the motherless and fatherless say ‘Someone cares about me, someone cares about my education, someone cares that I'm doing something with my life."

Using the passage in John 10:10 to show the secular audience how the enemy's purpose is to "steal, kill and destroy" but that Jesus came to give life to the full, Sylvia said he wants to see kids graduate because lack of education leads to a life of crime, welfare and an overall drain on society.

"I know if we can keep, for example, Steven out of gangs, he's one less thing that (Ceres Police) Chief Borges has to worry about in our community," said Sylvia.

"Research now shows that for a child to grow up healthy and strong he needs five other healthy and strong adults to invest in their life. A lot of our kids probably can't even name two or three. So that's where we as a community can come together and help put mentors together."

He said anyone can help out a child.

"It's simple and easy to go once a week for 45 minutes and just reinvest."

Sylvia said the community can help the group immensely by volunteering 45 minutes per week, financially supporting the group and praying. Sylvia welcomes those who wish to help by calling him at 522-9568, ext. 127, or emailing him at

Children in crisis
Garcia spent time talking about how the Children's Crisis Center of Stanislaus County, in existence for nearly 33 years, is making a move to provide greater access to Ceres families.

"By being in this community it'll increase the ease of accessibility and we think it will also provide for extended services to families who might not otherwise get to our program," said Garcia.

The center is opening a Ceres site on North Street on the block south of the Clinton Whitmore Mansion. The Parson House will provide a "safe places for children to go during some very difficult and critical times within their families that present a threat to their health and safety and overall well-being."

The center sees its mission as preventing child abuse before it happens.

The Ceres center will be joining three in Modesto, one in Turlock and one in Oakdale. Garcia said while Ceres has been given services by the center from day one, Garcia said transportation is an issue for some.

Community support is being sought to refurbish the two-story duplex unit for the center.

In the last nine months, the program has provided care for 1,400 children in the county, many from Ceres.

The center relies on charitable giving for 40 percent of its income. As a non-profit organization, the center accepts donations through its website, The center maintains a 24-hour crisis line at 577-4413.



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