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Goleta Noontime Rotary Expands Scholarship Program for Troubled Teens

Having awarded thousands of dollars to Los Prietos Boys Camp graduates, club will extend scholarships to girls next year, as well

For a decade now, Goleta Noontime Rotary has handed out $500 scholarships to promising boys at Los Prietos Boys Camp. The club recently announced plans to expand the scholarship program to include girls.

Located in Los Padres National Forest off San Marcos Pass, Los Prietos Boys Camp and Los Prietos Boys Academy is run by the Santa Barbara County Probation Department. The facility delivers classes, work and vocational training, counseling, and drug and alcohol programs for delinquent males between 13 and 18 years old.

Deputy Probation Officer Jim Clark and Laurie Holbrook, assistant director of the camp, said the message is getting out about the Rotary scholarships to camp and academy graduates. Nearly 100 boys have received scholarship funds from Goleta Noontime Rotary, Holbrook said.

The money is being put to good use all over the county. There are currently 19 graduates of the program attending local community colleges and several have graduated from universities.

“Without you, there’s a good chance that would not have happened,” Holbrook told Goleta Noontime Rotary members last week.

Four current camp members and two program graduates — and Santa Barbara City College students — received scholarships Tuesday and talked briefly about how the camp had helped turn their lives around.

Most of them said they had terrible grades, juvenile criminal records, drug or alcohol problems, and general behavior issues that caused them to be sent to Los Prietos in the first place. But now they look forward to attending college with help from the scholarships, they said.

Santa Barbara County Deputy Probation Officer Jim Clark has inspired at least one Los Prietos Boys Camp graduate to pursue a college degree in administrative justice and sociology. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)
Santa Barbara County Deputy Probation Officer Jim Clark has inspired at least one Los Prietos Boys Camp graduate to pursue a college degree in administrative justice and sociology. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

Charles, who will graduate high school on time this year after being far behind on credits, wants to get his cosmetology license and work in a barber shop or hair salon. He said he “started being a troublemaker when I hit fifth grade” and got referred to the Probation Department — and eventually Los Prietos — after arrests for assault and possession of a deadly weapon in junior high school.

Joseph, a now 20-year-old camp graduate, was at Los Prietos for four months. He said he learned that college is a new life and a new start, and he worked hard to graduate from his high school on time. His life now is all about attending classes at SBCC, working, and going to the gym, he said.

His goal is to graduate from UC Berkeley or San Diego State University with a degree in administrative justice and sociology.

“I hope to be who this man is someday,” he said of Clark.

Frank Ortiz, district governor for Central Coast Rotary Clubs, told the young men that the scholarships are “a kickstart to get you to take care of yourself.”

The Goleta Noontime Rotary members want them to become productive citizens, said Superior Court Judge Art Garcia, presiding judge of Juvenile Court in Santa Maria.

“It’s not a gift; it’s an investment,” he said. “You should be proud of yourselves, but don’t let us down.”

Deputy Probation Officer Tiffany Phillips has tried to give the girls in her charge a glimpse at a better life and the bigger picture. 'I tell them, ‘You’re beautiful, you have potential, and there’s something God has in store for your life,'' she says. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)
Deputy Probation Officer Tiffany Phillips has tried to give the girls in her charge a glimpse at a better life and the bigger picture. “I tell them, ‘You’re beautiful, you have potential, and there’s something God has in store for your life,’” she says. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

Starting next year at this annual meeting, Goleta Noontime Rotary will start handing out scholarships to girls as well, said club president Hans Dahlin and Superior Court Judge Tim Staffel.

Deputy Probation Officer Tiffany Phillips said there’s a huge gap between services available for boys and girls.

For the last two years, she has organized excursions for her caseload of girls — 13 currently — to give them positive experiences. Many of the girls have never left the Central Coast, and a recent trip to Los Angeles and Hollywood — even just driving through the region — made them extremely excited, she said.

“I just want to show them there’s something else out there,” she explained.

These are girls and young women who have low self-esteem and don’t have any other advocates, she said.

“I tell them, ‘You’re beautiful, you have potential, and there’s something God has in store for your life,’” she said emotionally.

The girls have a staunch advocate in Phillips, said Garcia. So many of them never had positive feedback until now, he added.

“They don’t hear it at home, they don’t hear it at school many times, they don’t hear it from their so-called boyfriends,” he said. “They just don’t hear it.”

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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