About 20 students in East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility’s
long-term unit participated in a fundraiser earlier this month by reading
Educators at the East Mesa School Youthful Offenders Unit
challenged the students to read at least 500 pages between Sept. 30 and Oct.
11. For each student that did, they donated $10 in their name as part of the American
Foundation for Suicide Prevention Eighth Annual Out of the Darkness 5k Walk.
“One of the key ways to motivate these kids is through a
challenge,” said Ruben de la Cruz, a teacher at the school who helped
coordinate the effort.
Nearly all of the 30 boys in the unit participated and about
20 of them read at least 500 pages. Reading can provide a needed mental and
emotional escape for many of the boys, who spend much of the day by
themselves in their rooms, de la Cruz said.
“They’re voracious readers,” he said. “They can almost take
their minds outside of where they are.”
Eight educators with San Diego County Office of Education’s
Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) walked in the fundraising event on
De la Cruz and Dr. Jose Manuel Villarreal, senior director and
principal with the JCCS South Network, came up with the idea and donated the money
on behalf of the students as a way to get them involved in a charity event and
help them prepare for life outside of the detention facility. Most of the
students involved have been at the facility for about a year and are nearing
"Since my students are about to transition from incarceration to the community, this event helped them see that they can make positive contributions to society," de la Cruz said.