Advocacy

Gang Awareness Month: Turning Tragedy Into Hope

Calexico educator champions Gang Awareness and Prevention Month
Gang_Garcia
Yulil Alonso-Garcia, right, with husband Martin Garza, left, and Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia.

Yulil Alonso-Garza dreams of a world where no one ever experiences what she and her family have gone through since Jan. 6, 2013. That was the day her son, Martin Alberto Garza, was murdered by a gang member, randomly targeted outside a holiday party.

Since that tragedy, Alonso-Garza has dedicated her life to spreading awareness about the dangers of gangs and providing resources to prevent young people from entering gangs. One outcome is the state Legislature’s designation of January as Gang Awareness and Prevention Month, which encourages all Californians to support the cause with activities to prevent gang activity and honor those who lost their lives due to gang violence.

Gang violence is responsible for an average of 2,000 gang-related homicides each year, according to 2007-12 data from the National Youth Gang Center. Alonso-Garza and her organization, Mothers and Men Against Gangs (MAG) Coalition, are building a movement to ensure that communities and families don’t have to suffer from that violence.

“We need to provide our kids with the support they need to prevent them from going down the wrong path. No one grows up saying they want to be a gang member or want to be in prison,” says Alonso-Garza, a member of Associated Calexico Teachers. “This is about more than just my son. Telling his story opens the door to things we can do to keep this from happening to other families.”

“ I’m very grateful to have my CTA family be a part of an important movement that will save lives.”

— Yulil Alonso-Garza, Associated Calexico Teachers

Alonso-Garza would love to see Gang Awareness and Prevention Month become a common observance in schools, like Red Ribbon Week. She is grateful for the support of 56th District Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia, who has authored the designation resolution for the past few years and is supporting Alonso-Garza’s effort to make it a permanent observance. She also thanked CTA State Council for allowing her to share her story, adopting the placement of the month on the CTA Calendar and being so supportive of her efforts.

“I’m very grateful to have my CTA family be a part of an important movement that will save lives,” she says. The 3 million members of her NEA Family are also on board after this year’s NEA Representative Assembly. Alonso-Garza authored a new business item (NBI) to garner the support of the nation’s educators for gang awareness and prevention. In the days leading up the discussion and action on the NBI, Alonso-Garza visited every state association to tell Martin’s story and ask for their support.

Her efforts were rewarded when RA delegates approved the item, meaning that NEA will now champion and promote gang awareness and prevention. “I had to tell my story over and over again, which was very painful but necessary to show people how important this is,” Alonso-Garza says. “The pain of gangs could impact any of us.”

Her amendment to an existing NEA gang awareness resolution to create resources for educators and students also garnered RA approval. For more information on the MAG Coalition, visit facebook.com/MAGCoalition.

2019 NEA Representative Assembly NBI 98

Introduced by Yulil Alonso-Garza and approved by delegates as modified:

NEA will partner with organizations, schools, businesses, law enforcement agencies, elected officials, community members and families to:

  • Promote January as the Gang Awareness and Prevention month of action starting in January 2020 … specifically calling for clear and immediate action to help NEA members educate their students and families on the implications of gang involvement;
  • Promote the creation of social justice clubs in our schools that will help students to be empowered, self-sufficient and proactive in their community by associating themselves with community groups that promote positive alternatives to gang involvement;
  • The NEA will compile existing resources in an online toolkit, offering resources for education students, educators and families on gang awareness and prevention.
  • NEA will encourage state affiliates to support programs for at-risk students in areas of high-gang activity.

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