Oak View gains new P.A.L.s
by Lenny Roberts
The Oak View Chapter of the Police Activities League has been
revamped, and now boasts enrollment of upwards of 50 kids a day
- many of whom have no place to go after school.
Senior Deputy, Ojai-based, Sheriff's Detective Joe Evans, joined
the P.A.L team in mid-May as an advisor. He credits volunteers,
Sunset School principal Larry Hardesty, the Ventura Unified School
District and the Oak View parks governing board with helping
to create a new interest in the after-school program designed
to give Ojai Valley latchkey children an opportunity to finish
homework and participate in activities to which they would not
otherwise be exposed.
"The fact is that they allow us to provide a great service
to the valley's children. They truly do care about the youth
of the Ojai Valley having some place to go and something to do,"
The P.A.L. program, based at Oak View Community Center began
about five years ago to reach out to at-risk youths in Ojai Valley.
After moderate success and the initial problems were ironed out,
the average daily attendance numbers were, nonetheless, on the
decline. Evans was brought in with a "fresh pair of eyes
to look at things with a different perspective," he said.
Earlier this year, P.A.L.'s homework program consisted of kids
coming to the center and sitting on couches with a couple of
volunteers trying to complete homework assigned that day. And
the main rule at P.A.L. is that homework must be completed before
kids can partake in activities.
But a problem developed, whereby some kids actually didn't have
homework assignments that day, and some who did said they didn't.
Evans, realizing that working with kids on their homework on
a couch setting was the best environment for learning, contacted
Hardesty, and proposed an idea that the Sunset School teacher
sold to VUSD.
In June, Hardesty was asked to determine the feasibility of a
collaboration between his school and P.A.L. whereby the VUSD
would provide an after-school homework assistant on Tuesdays,
Wednesdays and Thursdays.
"Larry Hardesty got the after-school program authorized.
P.A.L. would provide an adult mentor to help the kids, and the
school would provide an environment conducive to learning,"
"The first day of the experimental program was the hardest,
but Larry was the key player, providing a trained teacher and
the classroom for the first month of the trial period. On that
first day, six kids showed up, and I was actually pretty excited.
At the end of trial period three weeks later, we were averaging
18 to 20 kids a day. I thought this is great, reaching 20 kids
that we weren't reaching before."
When trial period was over, Hardesty agreed to start up again
after the summer break. Currently, there are as many as 55 kids
and two teachers in the program each day.
"The school district said they are very pleased with results,
and I'm almost beside myself," Evans said, adding that a
big advantage to the homework program is that parents say it
relieves a lot of stress at home.
"They parents say they're not battling with their kids because
their homework is done before going home. That's truly part of
Once out of their homework obligation, the kids can go to the
Community Center for P.A.L. activities. Under the direction of
Deputy Kim Larson, P.A.L. coordinator, Jason Sanger and John
Martinez run the daily programs of flag football, basketball,
cheerleading, Tae Bo, girl's volleyball, BMX motocross, off-road
motorcycling and P.A.L.'s newest program, boxing, taught by Senior
Deputy Lisa Panza.
Martinez is P.A.L.'s new basketball coach, hired to work with
kids who either don't know how to play or just want to improve
their skills. Through his experience and knowledge of the game,
Evans says Martinez provides training to kids who may opt to
go into Ojai's Park and Recreation leagues with better ability
and an improved understanding of the game.
"There was a large number of kids who turned out to play
on the P.A.L. basketball team, which became a successful club
team, and Martinez is doing the same thing with flag football,
readying them for league play," Evans noted.
Sanger, an ex-BMX racer, was brought into the program in May.
because a bunch of kids riding in the parking lot area and were
not part of P.A.L.
"They were being told that they couldn't ride in area unsupervised,
and this was unacceptable. We weren't welcoming them into the
program. Sanger brings the ability to teach kids to ride in dirt
in a safe manner. Also, he's one of those guys who when he tells
a kid how to do a jump, he's not just talking. He gets on his
bike and does it with them. We now reach out to kids who we were
unable to in the past.
"What we're trying to do is put P.A.L. back in position
to give kids the help that they need in being exposed to a sport
that they do not normally play, especially kids from families
that have both parents working and there just isn't time for
kids to learn a new sport."
Larson began P.A.L.'s off-road motorcycle training program for
kids 8 through 16 who have an interest in riding, but don't have
a motorcycle or anyone to teach them how to ride. Those who enroll
in the program are taken to a private off-road park facility
in Hungry Valley. There they are instructed by as many as six
deputies trained in off-road motorcycle instruction.
"By the end of the second day, they're going out on trail
rides with a deputy. It's a once-a-month program, and every trip
has been completely full. Kim put this together, and it's really
cool. Honda Corporation donates the motorcycles, and we have
enough for six instructors and 10 kids each trip."
P.A.L. welcomes any Ojai Valley child to join by filling out
a $10 annual registration form available at the Oak View Community
Center at 18 Valley Road, and adult volunteers are needed for
the various programs. Those interested should contact Evans at
the Ojai Police Department, 646-1414, during normal business
Upcoming P.A.L. events include the annual winter dance to be
held Dec. 28 at 7 p.m.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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motorcycle instructor Deputy Larry Baugher works with David del
Toro on his riding technique at a private Hungry Valley off-road