New Youth Center Going Up In San Jose

Building will house three different programs for kids. And yes, of course they need money

Construction has started on a new project in San Jose that will have a major impact on the area’s youth. The corner stone has now been laid for the Los Cabos Youth Center, which will bring together multiple organizations with the common goals of improving children’s quality of life and giving them more opportunities.

Once finished, the youth center will house Gente Joven, Mobilize Mankind and the Boys & Girls Club of Los Cabos. The center will be a two-level building covering 80,000 square feet. Along with offices for each organization, it will have a multipurpose room, common areas to be used for meetings and classes, and an administration area. There will also be a community garden, a playground and an adult learning center which for some reason is called a hospitality school.

youthcenter.JPGIsaac Garcia, the program director for the Inspire Mexico Foundation (one of the main players in establishing the center) says the hospitality school will be for the parents of the children participating in the programs.

“They can participate in the school in order to increase their potential of getting a better paying job,” he says. We think participate in the program means going to classes there. Why can’t people just tell it like it is? Is “going to school” that scary?

An eventual additional use for the youth center will be to house San Jose’s first food bank. Garcia says the food bank is still in the planning stages, and they are talking with several nonprofits about the project. But rather than having people donate canned good and non-perishable food, the hope is that they can snag some of the unused food from the many hotels and restaurants in Los Cabos.

The youth center is the result of numerous collaborations. Inspire Mexico, a U.S. non-profit that works with non-government organizations here in Los Cabos, is overseeing the fundraising. Illuminame, its Mexican counterpart, will be in charge of managing the youth center. And Garcia says the idea for a shared center really started with the groups that will be housed there; it’s something they had been talking about for years, before Inspire Mexico and Iluminame came on board.

“It’s a teamwork oriented project, working together to look after the children of the community,” Garcia says. He didn’t actually say, “It takes a village” but you get it.

One of the main drivers behind the center was the Boys & Girls Club, which had already planned to open a location in Los Cabos and had done a lot of looking around at potential locations. This is the first time, according to Garcia, that the organization has ever partnered with other groups like this, sharing space and resources.

“This is kind of a pilot program for the Boys and Girls Club,” he says. “It’s a model that we hope will get replicated throughout Mexico, especially with programs like these that are aimed at children and youths.”

The goal of having all of the programs together, rather than them being isolated in their own buildings, is to expand what they are able to do for the children, and increase their reach. Instead of having to go to different locations for each program (or choose between the different programs), kids will be able to easily access all three.

Garcia says the goal is to have the center finished within a year. It’s in the El Zacatal neighborhood, less than a mile west of Highway 1, chosen for several reasons. One is that it is an area that has one of the densest populations of youth in San Jose, with a large herd of children ranging from 3 to 17 years of age. The location was also chosen because of its proximity to many of the area preschools and elementary schools (there are 12 within a 1.2 mile radius of the center, and two schools are adjacent to it), which means many kids won’t have a hard time getting there after school.

The land for the youth center, more than five acres, was donated by the municipality of Los Cabos. Garcia says getting the land was, thankfully, relatively easy. “The whole process took less than 10 months, which is something you don’t see often here in Mexico,” he says. Hopefully the center’s construction goes as smoothly and quickly.

While the land for the youth center was donated by the municipality, the money for construction of the center is coming entirely from donors (private and corporate). A March fundraiser at Flora Farms raised about $1.5 million USD for the center, and the hope is that the next event, scheduled for February of next year, will raise the rest. Garcia says they’re estimating the cost for the youth center will be $2.5 million.

To learn more about plans for the youth center, or to make a donation, visit www.imfdn.org/iluminame.