McKinley/Bonita Honored for Youth Work

Cesar Rocha with award

The McKinley/Bonita Neighborhood Association has been awarded the Community Values Youth award by Project Cornerstone for involving youth in efforts to make the neighborhood cleaner and safer.

The award was one of seven given at Project Cornerstone’s annual Asset Champions Awards Breakfast at San Jose’s Fairmont Hotel on March 24. The nonprofit organization directed by Anne Ehresman works with the YMCA of Silicon Valley and 200 community organizations and schools to support youth.

McKinley/Bonita was honored for recruiting young people in monthly cleanup activities, including painting out graffiti and picking up litter. Youth are rewarded with activities like visiting Happy Hollow Zoo. Young people were also rewarded for completing weekly service projects in the association’s Summer of Service program.

McKinley/Bonita Neighborhood Association

Neighborhood youth are also involved in improving a pathway created as a shortcut between two streets that is a frequent target for trash and graffiti. The association has raised funds for upgrading the path and is involving young people in the work.

Just three years ago, the McKinley/Bonita Neighborhood, part of the Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace Strong Neighborhoods Area, was facing high incidents of crime by gangs, as well as blight and safety code violations. The residents made the area cleaner by removing graffiti, reporting abandoned vehicles, picking up litter and involving the community and nearby McKinley Elementary School in projects.

The neighborhood improvement and community organizing led to a drop in crime. , only nine incidents of gang and violent crime were reported in the neighborhood off McLaughlin Avenue, compared to 215 in 1992.

The awards breakfast was also an opportunity for Project Cornerstone to release results of its latest survey of 36,000 students in Santa Clara County schools on developmental asset — values, relationships and experiences that promote healthy activities, success in school and avoidance of risky behaviors.

Of 40 identified assets, some are external: family support, caring neighborhood, positive peer influence; and others are internal: motivated to learn, honest and responsible and a positive self-esteem.

Ramona and Dario Lerma

The students were surveyed in fall in more than 200 schools in 25 districts throughout the county. The survey was also conducted in 1999 and, which led to Project Cornerstone’s School Partnerships Program that now serves 30,000 students in 150 schools with the help of 1,500 volunteers.

The survey showed that children “are moving in the right direction,” said Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors president Dave Cortese, the event’s main speaker who highlighted the results.

Among elementary school students, 49 percent experienced 21 to 40 assets, and 20 percent experienced from zero to 20 percent. In middle school, 40 percent reported experiencing zero to 20 assets. Among high school students, the survey showed that 51 percent experienced zero to 20 assets.

Project Cornerstone calls on the community to support children through positive relationships, provide opportunities for community involvement and help them develop social skills and form positive values.