Yakima's Gang Free Initiative looking to the future

YAKIMA, Wash. -- The Gang Free Initiative has been up and running for a year. The city would now like to bring in more leadership with an Operations Manager

"It's a good place you know, helped me out, helped out my friends."

Jose Farias volunteers his time to help younger kids train in boxing.

They practice at the Yakima PAL center, where at risk youth can find positive activities through the Gang Free Initiative program.

"Turn something negative into something positive," said Farias.

That's been the goal of GFI since they started working with youth last January. The outreach team identifies at risk youth, assesses each situation, and makes a plan to get them back on track.

This past year 40 kids received services through the program, and 11 recently graduated from the first life skills training class.

The program's leadership wants to increase those numbers.

"Every child is born with the potential to become successful, contributing member of the community and along the way a lot of these youth through no fault of their own are derailed along that process," said Steve Magellan, GFI Chief Technician.

Limited resources make it a challenge with more at risk youth than the program can accommodate.

In the coming years GFI plans to expand their services to 120 children and 2 more Yakima neighborhoods, expanding to the south-east and north-central parts of the city.

To help reach that goal the city is looking for a new Operations Manager, who will focus on day to day development so the program can continue to provide another lifestyle for our youth, with less gang activity and more kids like Jose.

"Something to do instead of being home alone watching TV, you know arguing with your parents, something to keep you occupied, to keep the brain flowing, your heart beat up," said Farias.

According to the city's preliminary budget, the new Operations Manager will cost about $88 thousand.