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 JCCS Students Involved in Fundraising Walk Through Reading

​About 20 students in East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility’s long-term unit participated in a fundraiser earlier this month by reading books.

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 Oct. 19.

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 release.

"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.