Diplomas were awarded Saturday to 115 teenagers who completed the Sheriff’s Department’s 16-week Vital Intervention and Directional Alternatives (VIDA) Program.
In awarding diplomas to the graduates at a ceremony Dec. 3 at Belvedere Middle School in East Los Angeles, Sheriff’s Chief Neal Tyler stated, “I am extremely proud of these young men and women for displaying the dedication it takes to complete this program.”
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The VIDA graduates are from the Altadena, Century, East Los Angeles, Lakewood, Lancaster, South Los Angeles, Palmdale and Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Stations of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
VIDA is a cognitive, behavior-based, re-directional program designed for at-risk youth between the ages of 11 and 17½.
Overseen by law enforcement personnel, VIDA focuses on several areas, including healthy living, academic and vocational achievement, truancy reduction, increased literacy, workforce preparation, improving parental relationships and preventing substance abuse.
VIDA works closely with the L.A. County Probation Department, juvenile courts, various school districts, and a wide range of community-based organizations to increase accountability and provide needed services.
The program requires youth to attend 160 hours of various training and educational courses while their parents attend 32 hours of parenting classes.
“It’s about building a strong working partnership among law enforcement, community-based organizations, schools, and families so that these children can have a second chance. It’s about intervention in an effort to break a cycle that has no future,” Tyler added.
The VIDA program originated as the dream of a group of East Los Angeles Station deputy sheriffs who wanted to help troubled youth and their families. Since its inception in 1996, VIDA has grown into a comprehensive re-directional program with eight locations across Los Angeles County.
The process begins when an at-risk youth is referred to the program. Referring agencies often include courts, law enforcement, the Department of Child and Family Services, Probation Department, school districts, parents and religious institutions.
Upon referral, youths complete an intake interview with trained VIDA staff members. During the interview, the applicant’s risk level is assessed to determine if the youth meets the program’s targeted level of moderate to high risk of offending or re-offending.
Following the interview and selection for the program, youths attend an orientation night with their families. Once the program begins, VIDA staff members conduct home and school visits during the week to monitor social behaviors, reduce truancy and improve academic performance.
The mid-week re-directional component focuses on the student’s most pressing risk factors. Depending on the student, these range from family issues, educational issues, vocational skills and employment, to anger issues, self-control skills, anti-social attitudes, substance abuse and anti-social peer contacts.
Working to lower these factors involves addressing how the student interacts with the community and developing pro-social attitudes while reducing negative peer contacts.
Students spend eight hours on Saturdays at the VIDA site closest to their homes. The Saturday component focuses on students’ perceptions of themselves in relation to the community and authority figures. Staff members tackle topics such as personal health and hygiene, physical conditioning, individual and group dynamics, life responsibilities, negative peer groups, community stewardship and revitalization, and gender-sensitive issues.
In addition to the mid-week and Saturday components, students spend one night per week, along with their parents, participating in a 2 hour group class that targets family issues. The goal of these sessions is to slowly rebuild damaged relationships and equip both the parent and child with problem-solving skills that increase positive communication and understanding.
At the conclusion of the program, each participant receives a certificate of completion and is referred to other community-based programs to continue their individual goals and careers.
The Sheriff’s Department goal is for the VIDA students and their families to emerge with stronger bonds in place, as well as better judgment, integrity, initiative, respect and a new take on life. After all, VIDA is life.
For more information on the VIDA Program, explore the website at www.vida.la