‘It’s about pride and ownership’

Cleanup program helps to raise anti-gang awareness

From page 5B of the Sunday, June 30, 2013 edition of The Pueblo Chieftain newspaper

By Anthony Settipani

Youths in bright green T- shirts spent Saturday morn- ing and afternoon cleaning up graffiti and picking up trash around their neighborhood near Freed Middle School.

The group, called the Gang Alternative Program of Pueblo, includes about 20 youths who worked to replace some graffiti with a POW/MIA mural, in honor of the veteran who owned the building.

Frank Arteaga, 60, who oversees the project, said it goes back to 1993 when a personal experience with gang violence caused him to look for a way to help keep youths safe.

“I found this kid in an alley,” Arteaga said, “and he had been shot in the head.

I went there to help, but he was already dead. There was nothing I could do.”

He said that he then began to wonder what kind of programs were available to help prevent such things from happening. Seeing other cities with gang alternative pro- grams, he decided to start one himself.

‘‘All we’re trying to do is to make them a part of something that’s productive and constructive, where they can look at something and say, ‘I helped make that mural.’’’

Arteaga said he knows that it is a good thing for them, taking a moment to point out a man standing next to him, Chris Scott, whom Arteaga said had been having issues with drugs.

“He wanted to work in the program,” Arteaga said. ‘‘And he’s able to step up and say, ‘It hasn’t done me well.’’’ Arteaga said it was a great plus to have one of the kids’ peers telling them from his own experience that drugs aren’t the way to go.

Scott himself said that he was glad to be working to benefit his city and community.

“It’s a slow process,” the 23-year-old said, “but we already got a mural painted over some graffiti, we’re do- ing some other touch-ups and I’m pretty sure we got about 20 bags of trash between the whole crew.”

“It’s kind of about pride and ownership,” Arteaga said. “This is their neighborhood. If we can’t take care of our own neighborhood, how can we face those issues that are predominant in the city?”

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