Tucson teens fight for their city one brush stroke at a time
Are Tucson teens the problem or the answer when it comes to grappling with graffiti? Video by kgun9.comvideo
Reporter: Marcelino Benito
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Are Tucson teens the problem or the answer when it comes to grappling with graffiti? Karla Estrada and Carlos Beltran are two Tucson teens that could have chosen to be part of the problem. They could have chosen to destroy their city one graffiti tag at a time. Instead they're choosing to save it.
"They're messing up our city, we shouldn't let that happen," said Beltran.
9OYS reporter Marcelino Benito asked Estrada what she thinks when she sees the graffiti mess all over town. She replied, "I just think what kind of people would want to do that."
The United Way's C-CORE program arms teenagers with the tools to choose success. Adult mentors from the business community partner with youth to show them they matter, to reduce risky behaviors.
"Part of what we do is help them understand they are a part of this community," Mike Vogt, who runs the C-CORE program said. "They have an opportunity to make an influence."
That influence helped clean up the southside Sunnyside neighborhood. They pulled weeds and picked up trash.
"They want to improve the city and do something good," Catalina Llamas said.
Teens help paint over the graffiti stains left behind by others, others who weren't lucky enough to find mentors in time.
"These kids need guidance to do good in life," Llamas said.
Llamas wants to be one of those mentors. She says teenagers often fall through the cracks. Their parents are too busy with work. It may make it easier for teens to choose gangs, choose violence or choose graffiti. That's why projects like these make a difference.
"They do have a tremendous affect," Vogt said. "Not only are they abating graffiti, they are also improving their lives, improving their families lives."
Vogt says it all trickles down. When teens take part in community service, alongside mentors who care, lives change, grades improve, school attendance picks up, and dreams or goals no longer seem so far-fetched.
"You can see the pride in themselves," Vogt said.
And the proof is in the teenagers, because despite all the bad rap Tucson teens get, things are changing.
"We want to let whoever is doing this graffiti that nobody is going to take over our beautiful city," Llamas said. "We are united to take care of our city."
Teens tell 9OYS they are standing up and calling on each other to improve their community.
"Take care of it, it's ours why would we want to destroy it for," Beltran said.
Benito asked Estrada what difference this mentoring program has had on her life. She replied, "I've chosen to take the right path, instead of the wrong path."
And there are thousands of Tucson teens out there looking to take the right path. But the C-CORE needs your help. They are in desperate need of more mentors. If you're interested in helping out and becoming a mentor, email Mike Vogt at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also access the online coach application at: http://hbi.civicore.com/index.