Fresh life is pumping in the heart of old Stockton. The City Council just entrusted the Gary and Janice Podesto Impact Teen Center to Fathers & Families of San Joaquin (FFSJ) and its leader, Sammy Nuñez. After the 7-0 vote, a dozen respectably dressed members of the multi-ethnic and intergenerational FFSJ team stood and chanted “I am Impact! We are IMPACT!” Even serious council members smiled.
IMPACT (Individuals Making Positive Actions for Community Transformation) is the large building on El Dorado Street, just north of the library. After sprucing up, the huge space will open to youth on March 22nd, with no membership fee.
“The one requirement,” says Nuñez, “is mutual respect. We will be a welcoming community. We do not look on young people as a problem. Rather, our young people are our greatest asset. Every young person has so many talents, they must be nourished and come to flower. Our community needs every person, to work together for the good of all.
“Young men and women of every race and ethnicity will have fun here. They will also have access to healing services and programs for young parents, educational services and support, and public health and nutritional services.”
The City will provide $125,000 this year, diminishing by the third year to $85,000, and FFSJ is developing a comprehensive plan to eventually relieve the City of this taxpayer funding. Nuñez says, “We are confident that generous donors from our business community will come to our support.”
Facilities Coordinator Jim Walsh adds, “The young people will earn money ourselves! We will develop businesses like a youth run internet café with catering services for business and organization meetings, and a youth run retail store front to sell arts and crafts created through FFSJ and IMPACT projects. Our young people will learn social and career development skills which they can take out into the world, and support their families and communities.
“And, these entrepreneurial projects will benefit the surrounding neighborhoods through our Youth Empowerment Zone model. That’s called Social Entrepreneurship.”
Volunteers are already calling, to share their skills. Circles of elders have already been meeting, to share life stories and wisdom.
The old town is jumping. It’s a bright new day in Stockton.
For information, to apply for a position or to volunteer with Fathers & Families, call IMPACT at 937-7170 or visit www.ffsj.org