Yakima's Gang Free Initiative reaching more kids

Yakima's Gang Free Initiative reaching more kids »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima's Gang Free Initiative wants to reach more kids. More have gotten involved since the program started. Managers also want to get more services on board.

Christian Garcia is turning his life around. The 14-year-old has been part of Yakima's Gang Free Initiative for a year.

"I was getting in a lot of trouble,” said Christian. “They were like this close to kicking me out of school."

Christian says he talked back to his teachers and never paid attention in class. He already credits a life skills class that he took through the initiative for changing that behavior.

"I learned to respect people, and by giving respect, you get respect back," he said.

Right now, there are more than 90 kids in GFI supported programs. That's about 20 more than last year.

"Do you think that's enough or do you want to help more kids?" KIMA asked.

"No, it's definitely not enough," said Yakima GFI consultant Steve Magallan.

The goal is to have 150 kids in a GFI program by the end of this year. Magallan hopes to reach more kids by spreading the word.

"Are you happy with where you are now with the programs that are currently running?" KIMA asked.

"No one's ever really happy with where we are now, because we know that we can do more and we can do better," said Magallan.

Yakima currently has five programs offering services for the Gang Free Initiative. Magallan hopes to add more life skills, mentoring and tutoring programs by the beginning of next year – programs that Christian is already using.

"It's kept me out of a lot of trouble, and it just gives me a place to go," said Christian.

The National Gang Center recently assessed Toppenish and Sunnyside's Gang Free Initiative programs. It recommended both cities collect gang crime data, share more resources and establish more partnerships with schools and other organizations.