increasing criminal prevention measures and create more choices for at-risk youths
Photography by jessica lynn

increasing criminal prevention measures and create more choices for at-risk youths

by nicole peyraud
Cultivate Relationships | Children


city of hope
Born from the desire to increase criminal prevention measures and create more choices for at-risk youths in Los Angeles, Sherry Jason formed City Hearts, a new forum for education. A lawyer for the public defender’s office, Jason’s heart went out to her young clients and the victims in their wake.

With the assertion that children would flourish given the opportunity for self-expression and creative education, she started City Hearts, offering two dance classes a week and paying teachers out of her own pocket.

Through the years, the organization has grown in size, structure and influence within the community. Now serving over 650 children per week, City Hearts, with the assistance of a dedicated staff of creative professionals and teachers, gives kids the opportunity to explore a range of interests including art, dance, music, photography and film, among others.

The program has been a lifeline to kids growing up in some of the most gang-infested areas in the country. Filling in the gap and nourishing children in a way that their standard education does not, City Hearts is doing more than giving kids a forum for creative expression, it’s offering them an opportunity to access their own inner resources, encouraging participants to think with a new set of tools.

By promoting faculties such as dedication, self-discipline, follow-through, and a sense of accomplishment, underprivileged children are given the opportunity to experience self-driven commitment and to dream of a better future.

Working with the courts, Jason was able to facilitate sentencing youths charged for nonviolent crimes to be sent to City Hearts. Results from participation in the program have been positive across the board.

Jaime R. Corral, Superior Court Judge of the Juvenile Justice Department, has been quoted as saying, “When kids come into this courtroom they are down and depressed. This program helps them open up and mix with other kids, and they are forced to express themselves in a positive way. We're not coddling criminals. The feedback is positive. You can see the difference in them after they attend class. So far, I haven't seen any of these kids back [in the system].”

A beacon of hope in a depleted community, City Hearts has made a world of difference by bringing choices to children.

More than 20,000 children have been through City Hearts’ programs. Studies evaluating the City Heart Literacy Program report that 100% of City Hearts students now enjoy learning, 87% now believe it’s important to do well in school, 83% now have goals and dreams for the future, and 91% believe City Hearts programs help improve their school skills.

It has been reported that 85% of City Hearts participants have continued their education past high school, a staggering win for the organization.

Recently extending programs to Ventura County, City Hearts is hoping to eventually expand both nationally and internationally, giving children everywhere hope for a better future. If you are interested in contributing to City Hearts, donations are greatly appreciated. The event includes a barefoot grape crush, wine tasting, a silent auction, and is catered from local restaurants including Saddle Peak Lodge. To learn more visit cityhearts.org.



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