California Educator

December/January 2019

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Yulil Alonso-Garza, right, with husband Martin Garza, left, and Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia. Turning Tragedy Into Hope Calexico educator champions Gang Awareness and Prevention Month By Julian Peeples Y U L I L A L O N S O - G A R Z A 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 Preven- tion 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 homi- cides each year, according to 2007-12 data from the National Youth Gang Center. Alonso-Garza and her orga- nization, Mothers and Men Against Gangs (MAG) Coalition, are building a movement to ensure that commu- nities 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. "is 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." 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 Gar- cia, 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, adopt- ing 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 Rep- resentative 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 (see box, next page), Alonso-Garza visited every state association to tell Mar- tin'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 import- ant this is," Alonso-Garza says. "e 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 " I'm very grateful to have my CTA fam- ily be a part of an important movement that will save lives." — Yulil Alonso-Garza, Associated Calexico Teachers 40 Advocacy

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