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They gave the kids food, and at times collected donations of clothes and other items for them.

When teens walk through the doors of the Española YMCA Teen Center, they are accepted for who they are. A few months after losing his dad to a drug overdose, Mark arrived with his sister, a brother and their friend. At 13 years of age, he had already been jumped into a gang, and he thought he was the man- not only at home, but he tried to push his weight around the Teen Center, as well.

Teen Center staff kindly but firmly let him know that it was unacceptable to push his weight around with anyone. He was searching for direction and guidance, and he had found it there.

“We have seen the benefits of having a safe place for teenagers to go after school, especially for the kids that have an unfortunate situation at home,” says Kristy Ortega, Executive Director of the United Way of Northern New Mexico.

“Ben and his staff have turned numerous lives around before it was too late, and have been a help to those who needed guidance.

Five UWNNM Board members visited Rio Arriba Adult Literacy Program as a part of their Community Action Fund Grant Site Visits.

In attendance were David Trujillo, Joseph Sanchez, Manuel Valdez, Don Cobb and Liddie Martinez.

Right now the NM Coalition for Literacy funds about 50% of their program and receive small grant from Dollar General.

“Their training has changed in the last 18 months from a 2 day training to 1.5 days to now 1 full day.

“Our hope is to do 1-2 of these training’s per year for those who serve in Los Alamos and Rio Arriba Counties,”; Ortega said.

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