GUSTINE - Some West Side youth are spending a portion of their summer learning new skills and enjoying activities through Gustine’s Y-LEAD program.

Y-LEAD is a program during the summer that allows kids to be in a safe environment while taking part in a variety of enrichment activities.

It also gives the youth a place to meet new friends they don’t normally see during school, and gives them an opportunity to enjoy games and arts and crafts while also serving the community.

The summer program hosts kids from grades 4-8 and is attended by 50-60 youths this summer.

Advisor Angelica Gonzales and assistant John Massey are the leaders for the seven-week program, which started in mid-June and continues through Aug. 2.

Both have had prior experience with Y-LEAD.

Massey has been involved in Y-LEAD for 10 years, and was a team captain for three before moving up to assistant advisor.

“I pretty much grew up in it and it taught me so much when I was in the program” said Massey.

Gonzales was also a three-year captain as well but was not previously involved. Looking back, she reflected, the program could have helped fill a summertime void in her younger years.

“During summers I remember just being home doing nothing” said Gonzales. “Being involved with Y-LEAD showed me the importance of community service and friendships.”

Massey and Gonzales said they want the program to teach Y-LEADers communication skills, and want to instill an appreciation of wanting to give back to their community and to the environment as well.

“With Y-LEAD I want every single kid here to learn basic interpersonal skills, learn to just be themselves and enjoy the moment,” Massey told Mattos Newspapers. 

Gonzales added, “I want these kids to walk away happy that they did this program while having fun but also learning to give back.”

In Y-LEAD any given week typically consists of having theme dress days, cleaning up different areas of the community, group activities, games and arts and crafts. 

Y-LEADer Nayeli Pazilla commented, “ I really like having fun with the other kids, and also the opportunities to give back and working together with others as well.” 

The advisors said they want to continue to see the program grow and hopefully reach others in the community as well. 

“I want these kids to remember that this is a safe place for them” Gonzales told Mattos Newspapers. “Also I want them to be able to take these skills back to school and especially back home.”