Industry, CA – Twenty-three years of success stories. Twenty-three years of transforming lives. Twenty-three years of giving countless thousands of young people – many of them from at-risk environments – opportunities they might never have had.
The Industry Sheriff’s Youth Activities League is one of the great untold stories of the San Gabriel Valley – a multi-faceted year-round program designed to provide structure, discipline and support to young people throughout the region.
Created in 1991, the YAL has been supported from the start by the City of Industry, which along with donations from local businesses and private citizens allows the non-profit endeavor to provide free service to more than 3,500 young people a year. Programs include youth sports, martial arts, the Law Enforcement Academy at La Puente High School, the Law Enforcement Explorers Program and Camp C.O.U.R.A.G.E., a community-based anti-gang program for middle school students from throughout the region.
Graduates have gone on to successful careers in business, public service and the military.
Marine Lance Cpl. Angel Cruz, now stationed in Washington, D.C., said the Law Enforcement Academy (LEA) “taught me leadership skills, responsibilities, moral and physical courage, and to always seek self-improvement. The people that you go through it with are like your second family.”
With personal transformation comes community transformation. In the late 1980s and early ‘90s, gangs had taken over many of the public parks in the region. Today, sheriff’s deputies manage youth sports programs on those same grounds.
A few years later, Industry turned over a piece of property in Tonner Canyon to the YAL to run an anti-gang program for middle school students in the Rowland, Hacienda-LaPuente and Bassett Unified School Districts. Camp C.O.U.R.A.G.E. (Community Opposition and United Resistance Against Gang Evils) takes in groups of 60 young people four times a year, teaching them teamwork and leadership. Campers are encouraged to meet individual goals and overcome fears. In many cases, the camp also provides them with their first real experience with nature.
Deputies serve as camp counselors, guiding campers through activities that include archery, hiking, swimming, crafts and team building. The camp also features a challenge course and 40-foot climbing wall.
Because of financial support from the City of Industry and other donors, the camp – food, lodging and transportation – is provided free of charge to students.
Camp Courage is a powerful example of law enforcement and partners collaborating for the greater good. The YAL has dozens of similar stories. Its judo club has earned global renown, earning dozens of national medals. Other sports, such as baseball, basketball and football, have allowed the program to rechannel youthful energy in a positive way.
At the YAL’s Law Enforcement Academy, which opened in 2001, enrollment is more than 200, with each students expected to maintain a 2.5 grad-point average.
Leticia Gonzalez, a La Puente High School senior and LEA cadet, said the program has prepared her for “a great career in anything I choose. It has taught me what it is to care for others and hold myself and my peers to a higher standard.”
Graduates say they can’t wait to return the favor.
“The LEA was a life-changing experience. I’m certain of that,” said Alma Calvillo, now a Sheriff’s Deputy assigned to the Industry Station. “It taught me to be a leader, to be disciplined, to be the person I am today. I really hope that one day I can give back.”