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February 20, 2014

Host: José Cárdenas

Glendale Youth Project

  |   Video
  • Glendale Youth Project (GYP) is a program that aims to provide accessible sports, mentors, and tutors to kids and teens. GYP Founders Carlos Meza and Lena Meza talk about the project.
  • Carlos Meza - GYP Founder
  • Lena Meza - GYP Founder
Category: Education   |   Keywords: education, glendale, project, sports, mentors, tutors, teens, kids,

View Transcript
José Cárdenas: Good evening. I’m José Cárdenas. We will talk about a program in Glendale making sports, mentors, and tutors accessible to teens and kids. Plus, learn about an ASU student’s idea to perk up campus plant life in an environmentally conscious way. And at-risk youth get the opportunity to play the sport of handball. All this, coming up next on "Horizonte."

Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station.

José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us. The Glendale Youth Project, known as GYP, is an organization helping at-risk youth. GYP provides a positive outlet for exploring new opportunities. Joining me now to talk about the program is founder and director Carlos Meza. Also here is Lena Meza, also a founder of GYP. Thank you both for joining us on "Horizonte." Carlos, as I understand, GYP, Glendale youth project, formerly is 4 years old, but this all grew out of something you started 20 almost years ago. Tell us about that.
Carlos Meza:I started about 1996 out of my house. I started with the boy scout pack, Jose Mendoza and Lt. Frank Balkcom the Glendale P.D. They approached me and asked me if I wanted to start a boy scout pack. I was young and I said, yeah, I'll do it. So I went on, I did it for five years. At that time, those kids were five years old so when they turned about five, they were about 10 years old so they started getting to sports so that's when I started kicking in, started doing basketball, baseball, Boxing.

Carlos Meza: Boxing yeah, I started boxing. In 1998 I started a boxing gym out of my house where I was averaging about 14 to 15 kids, little small house that I grew up at my grandma's right there in the Glendale neighborhood. And we took it from there.

José Cárdenas: And why? What was the motivation for getting involved because all this time, you worked at the Glendale school district. High school district. You have a day job and you're doing this at night. What is it that made you want to do this?

Carlos Meza: I guess I love working with kids and I guess I grew up in a neighborhood and a lot of my friends and their brothers were going to prison or turning into heroin addicts and I didn't want that, a lot of these kids that I got attached to doing boy scouts. When I started boy scouts I got attached to these kids. I fell in love with it and I wanted to give more and more and that's why we started doing it.

José Cárdenas: And Lena, you're cofounder.

Lena Meza: Uh-huh.

José Cárdenas: As Carlos said, you guys were doing this out of your house?

Lena Meza: Yeah. We started out of our house. It goes back to, you know, Carlos doesn't have a father, and I think he's always had that passion to, you know, lead kids, show them the better way. We were always involved in a program with council member Norman Alvarez. It was called ‘show them a better way’ and we were with that program for years, and I think Carlos just got hooked and there was kids that really looked up to him. He became a mentor really fast, and I think that's when we really kicked off. So our house yeah, his grandparents passed away, left us their house in the heart of Glendale, smack in the middle of the barrio and kids were in and out of our house. We always had the -- our park is in the middle, two houses to the right we have a community center, one house to our left we have a park. So we would take the kids, have them just walk all the equipment over to the park, have practice, come back to the house and unload, and then it was just an open rec.

José Cárdenas: And I understand that you mentioned you've got the Glendale recreation center just a few feet away, a few houses away. And Glendale came to you because they noticed your place was full.

Lena Meza: Yeah.

José Cárdenas: And there were not very many people using the recreation center.

Lena Meza: Yeah. Me and Carlos both had full-time jobs so it was just from 3-8pm , around to at night, we finally said you know what? Why don't we just become our own organization? So we became the Glendale youth project. We gutted out the house, Carlos actually -- I can't take any credit for it. He would go yard saling and he found pool tables, ping-pong tables, we would go yard-saling, thrift stores--so we got the center going.

José Cárdenas: You made your own center basically, your house. At some point you expanded to use the Glendale facility?

Lena Meza: Yes.

José Cárdenas: And we've got a few pictures that we want to put up on the screen showing the kids there and what they're doing. Basketball in this picture and I think we have a shot of indoors what the kids are doing. This is a volleyball team?

Carlos Meza: This is our volleyball team, our fourth through sixth grade team.

Lena Meza: We didn't make it to championships but daisy, the one in the glasses over to the right-hand side, he was on our volleyball team for the last four years. She's now a sophomore in high school and she approached us. So like I was mentioning before, our purpose is to have our younger kids, all our smaller ones at the bottom, hopefully, when they can't into high school, I want them to coach our younger guys so it's like a cycle.

José Cárdenas: We've got a few more pictures that we'll be showing as we talk, another one of the volleyball team. As I understand it, Carlos, that's a big part of the program is you get the kids who have been through it to start working with you and got another shot. I take it some of these older kids are involved helping you coach.

Lena Meza: That's a special guest.

Carlos Meza:He's the light weight mma fighter.

José Cárdenas: Which person? The one in the middle?

Carlos Meza: In the back. And that is harper in the back and that’s his brother Manny they're also my teen leaders now and Manny just got done coaching the basketball team.

José Cárdenas: As I understand it, to this day, this is all volunteer effort.

Carlos Meza: All volunteer.

José Cárdenas: What role does the city play? They provide the facility?

Carlos Meza: That's all pretty much. They provide the facility. The director for the parks and recreation, he opened up the door for us to pretty much run all our programs and the community center.

José Cárdenas:And so are you still using your house?

Carlos Meza: Not no more.

José Cárdenas: You got it in this modern facility, you're running these programs. And Lena I understand it's not just sports. You provide other services for these kids?

Lena Meza: So Carlos does the sports. We have open rec. So anyone is welcome in and out. It's not just the Glendale area.

José Cárdenas: You're talking recreation.

Lena Meza: Open recreation. Yes, we have cheer, we have hip hop, we have 197 boy scouts, we have the mighty rangers, and then we have a girls group. So my daughter is teaching the girls group and she's just, you know --

Carlos Meza: Hang out and just talk.

Lena Meza: You know, just proper etiquette, manners, being lady-like. They talk about hygiene, just -- we have a weight room in the city in the facilities so some of our high school kids just come and hang out and they lift weights in there. Carlos does boxing out of there.

José Cárdenas: How many kids do you think you touch in any given year?

José Cárdenas: Daily, daily I would say 60-70 anywhere from to come rolling in and out of the center. Just football alone, we have six teams and 25 on each team. Our volleyball team we have two volleyball teams and those are -- one has -- they range from 15 girls. We have basketball teams that range from 15 kids per team and we have five teams. So I would say maybe active, Glendale youth project kids that are rotating between sports and programs, about 350 kids.

José Cárdenas: So we've talked a lot about the kids. What about the parents, Carlos? Any involvement by them or what kind of reaction do you get from them?

Carlos Meza: We got some real good parents that have been involve with us like the harpers, Becky and Lupe harper. They've been part of our life, too. I started coaching Harper and Manny when they were six, seven years old. And they've been with us since then. And they're a big part of it.

Lena Meza: Coach Stacy.

Carlos Meza: Coach Stacy. Lupe, dominguez.

José Cárdenas: It's very much a community effort.

Carlos Meza: Exactly, it's a community effort.

José Cárdenas: And where do you get funding? How do you provide for all of this?

Carlos Meza: Our funding comes just from our parents, our own fundraisers. We do a lot of car washes, a lot of bake sales. We do like this weekend, we're going to have a horseshoe tournament to raise money for our spring football program.

Lena Meza: But our main right now is just we have a huge support system with councilman Ian Hugh, he's been amazing.

Carlos Meza: He's been a blessing to us.

Lena Meza: He came to us and, you know, he did -- we didn't have a ping-pong table so he kind of went to the center just to see what was going on and he says what are these kids playing with? You don't have any ping-pong tables. He took us out and we got basketballs, footballs, ping-pongs, basketball courts like the stand up courts.

José Cárdenas: We have the website up on the screen. I assume people can go there and get more information? Make contributions if they want?

Lena Meza: Www.Glendaleyouthproject.com. And money, we don't only ask for money donations. Used items, I tell Carlos all the time, if you come across anyone and they have used basketballs, used board games, anything they can just drop off, we can use. Right now, we're looking for sponsorships so if they don't want to just -- it's 100% deductible but if they want to sponsor a teen versus, you know, just hey, here's a check to help your organization, we would rather somebody give us a check to sponsor a basketball team of 15 kids, because we have a lot of kids that are coming to us on scholarships that can't pay to get on sports. And, you know, it costs us about $10 to get a shirt and if we're going to get a team together, it gets pricy. We have to have equipment for the coaches to practice with. We have to have basketball shorts and footballs, that's a whole beast in itself.

José Cárdenas: Carlos we're almost out of time so last question. We talked a little bit off-camera about the drug problem in this area and it seems to me that makes this program all the more important. How are you dealing with that?

Carlos Meza: I think that's one of my reasons why I target so much because a lot of my friends, they became heroin addicts or went to prison and I don’t want that to happen anymore. And our goal is to get these kids educated. Go to the service, go to college or even a trade school. You don't have to go to ASU, U. of A. You don't have to go to a top college but a trade school and become an A.C. tech. A.C. tech makes decent money in Arizona. Just become a good, moral person in life.

José Cárdenas: And this gives them a way to do that.

Carlos Meza: Exactly.

José Cárdenas: Thank you both so much for joining us on "Horizonte" talk about this wonderful program.


  |   Video
  • Success4Kids helps young people with the opportunity to play the sport of handball in a safe and structured environment. James Reitmyer, coach and mentor and Ken Dannenbaum co-founder of Success4Kids discuss the program.
  • James Reitmyer - Coach and Mentor, Success4Kids
  • Ken Dannenbaum - Co-Founder, Success4Kids
Category: Community   |   Keywords: community, education, safe, arizona, youth, outreach, program,

View Transcript
structured environment. Joining me tonight to talk about the program is James Reitmyer, coach and mentor for Success Kids, and Ken Dannenbaum, co-founder of Success Kids. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." Let's start, ken, with the founding of this program. How did it begin?

Ken Dannenbaum: We started this program about 10 years ago, a young man named Jerry Bernard who happens to be my age, I decided to help grow handball and help them become better people.

José Cárdenas: Why handball? There are many ways to help and you chose this one in particular.

Ken Dannenbaum: well we both played handball and we have a passion for handball. And there are eight handball courts at every school in western and south Phoenix. Every high school in Phoenix. And every day at the schools on the west and south side of Phoenix there's approximately 100 kids playing handball, unorganized, maybe not playing by the rules but playing. So we realized that that was a very easy transition for us took back in.

José Cárdenas: Interest was already there.

Ken Dannenbaum: Interest was already there.

José Cárdenas: And you guys got involved with a little bit of a different focus which was indoor handball.

Ken Dannenbaum: And the reason we did that was because 98% of the people that play four wall indoor handball are on an extremely positive path in life. Today, these kids are playing big ball outside, and there's not quite as many people on a positive path in life. We try to transition them from the three wall game to the indoor game. We take them to various tournaments across the country so they can interact with other kids, and then they see how successful they can be. 98% of people who play handball are on a positive path in life.

José Cárdenas: I want to talk about some of the successes your program has had with some of these kids. But one of the reasons for handball as opposed to let's say basketball or football is it's kind of a great equalizer. Anybody can play it.

James Reitmyer: It's one of the most -- we call it the perfect game. You can play it indoors, outdoors, there's so many different types of handball, as well. Ken touched on two of the major ones but we have one wall with the big ball, one wall with a small play, it's Ireland's national game and it's a game you can play almost in a gymnasium.

José Cárdenas: It doesn't matter how big or small you are.

James Reitmyer: It seems like some of the smaller guys get around the court faster than the big guys. It's a phenomenal game. I have a passion for it, been playing it for 55 years myself and still play the game and love it.

José Cárdenas: Let's talk a little bit about some of the other organizations involved in the sport itself and how you interact with them. There's the United States handball association.

James Reitmyer: United States handball association is our major company that we represent and they provide coaching, instructions, and certifications. And then the newest organization, world players of handball, wph, both of them you can find online, they basically are driving the game of handball because a lot of people say it's a dying sport but I will be now it's a very fast-growing sport.

José Cárdenas:And right now, you're focused on three high schools.

James Reitmyer: We're focused on three high schools. There's about I would say 12 schools in the Phoenix area that have eight to twelve courts. And kids are playing there every day. So what we're trying to do is find out how many players there are, and try to guide them into a competitive position. You can start in elementary schools, too, which is another avenue we're looking for.

José Cárdenas: What is your involvement? How many people are involved? There's a number of coaches.

James Reitmyer: Our executive director Todd Hollister and I are going to two basic high schools right now and we're going to try to get our foot in the door with a third, Carl Hayden and we try to find out how many kids are just having fun on a lunch hour and who would like to make it more of a competitive game and learn the rules of the game.

José Cárdenas: Once or twice a week.

James Reitmyer: Exactly.

José Cárdenas: And who are the other two schools.

James Reitmyer: North high school and south melon high school.

José Cárdenas: Now, ken, you touched on this a little bit and tim has mentioned the success, as well, but your program, you've touched several hundred kids over the years or so that you've been involved. You've produced some pretty serious competitors.

Ken Dannenbaum: Yes, we have. We have a young man, Edgar Medena who went to south mountain high school, he won the national a division championship two or three years ago. There are only 15 people that can say they ever won a national championship in the a division in handball, maybe , and we have other students that have done very, very well. We have young men and women who have gone through college. They've graduated through the game of handball. I talked to one of them's parents last week and he's number three in his class at Maryville high school and he's now an engineer, works for adot. We have another young man who got a full ride scholarship to Arizona state and we have people that are on a positive path in life. One of our young man from a few years ago, Richard and I were very good friends and he's a very good handball player and he now works for the sheriff's department. One day Richard, I used to have a ford lightning pickup. It will go zero to 60 in 5.3 seconds and I used to lend my truck out to my kids and one time Richard said thank you for letting me use the truck. I have two rules, the first rule is that you be careful and the second is that there's no drinking and he said don't worry, I don't drink. I said what do you mean? I've heard you talk about drinking before. He says yeah but if you play handball, you can't drink.

José Cárdenas: And that's a big part of the program right. Because in addition to teaching kids how to play the game, exposing them to the competitive aspects of it, as I understand it you have life coaches, as well.

Ken Dannenbaum: That's correct.

José Cárdenas: Tell us about that.

Ken Dannenbaum: We have a young lady, Alicia Cooper, she's a life coach. She's talked to our young men about nutrition. We hope to have her talk to our people a couple of times every two months or so. She's allowing us to show the video to all of the handball groups around the country. What I do, I'm 65 years old, I had to quit playing the game five years ago after my third back surgery. I don't teach very much about handball anymore. I leave that to jim and other guys than can play. Jim's 75years old and he can --

José Cárdenas: I don't believe it. You look terrific, maybe handball's the secret. So other people watching the program, that will be part of it.

Ken Dannenbaum: There are very few kids that can beat Jim in handball. So I focus on life skills. So one of the first things we do is when we go out, we go to a tournament, we talk about the proper way to eat so we always talk about your left hand goes in your lap and this is the hand that you eat with and you can't put this one up here and you can't go to sleep on the table and things like that. That's really huge. I go to restaurants today and I see young men and women, very good-looking young men and women and they're crunched over like this eating and it looks like they're at the chow hall in southeast Asia which they're not. We teach them things like that.

José Cárdenas: Let me ask tim about that. It's hard for me to believe that you're 75 , you look terrific but what kind of reaction do you get from the kids when you talk about the other stuff? I can understand why they would be excited about the sports part of it but at least initially do you see them rolling their eyes and wondering why you're even talking about this stuff?

James Reitmyer: The sports part is a blast, it's a fun thing to do. But it gives me as a coach along with our other coaches a chance to physically, you know, and mentally interact with one another. I talk about nutrition, I talk about --

José Cárdenas: And when you talk about that kind of stuff, what kind of reaction do you get?

James Reitmyer: They agree. They think it's a good idea and in order to qualify for a travel team, you have to have good grades, you've got to have -- I ask them regularly how's your grades coming? Well, we've got a little work to do. So we talk about that. The kids are not -- they're gaining some weight, we're trying to monitor that and we're trying to do everything we can to just put them on a positive path, not just to be better handball players because we can do drills all day long. To be a good player, you've got to eat right, you have to be in physically good condition and have good habits.

José Cárdenas: So they respond.

James Reitmyer: And they absolutely love Dr. cooper's presentations. They were just flabbergasted.

José Cárdenas: We're almost out of time. We did put the website up on the screen. How can people get involved and how can they help?

Ken Dannenbaum: Well, if they can send their donations in to one of those addresses, then we can reach kids more. We can reach more children. More kids. We do get funding from the usha and various grants, the Jake Plumber foundation is one of the people that contributes every year for us. Jake plumber's a handball player.

José Cárdenas: And if people want to get involved in actual instruction, they can do that, too?

Ken Dannenbaum: They can do that also because we need coaches.

James Reitmyer: We're looking for volunteers.

José Cárdenas: We're out of time, thank you for having us.

José Cárdenas: That is our show for tonight. From all of us here at eight and "Horizonte," I'm José Cárdenas, have a good night.