A nonprofit in the Antelope Valley that offers drug prevention and intervention services to youth is being spotlighted by The Way Out Recovery SCV officials.
The United Community Action Network provides services to adolescent first-time drug offenders and students who have shown violence at school, and also offers education to local students in their schools.
“Most people who, for whatever reason, get into drugs, alcohol, start getting into trouble and gangs and whatever when they’re younger … end up in systems,” said Bob Sharits, program director at The Way Out Recovery SCV. “We end up in places that are just a revolving door and over and over and over again… These guys have dedicated their lives to helping kids one at a time … get back on their feet, or get on their feet, and get on the right track.”
Now clean and sober, Edwards can recall two adults who profoundly impacted his life when he first became violent as a youth and ultimately found himself in a juvenile institution.
“When I got put out of a few schools, I landed in (one teacher’s) class, and I don’t know what it was about her. She still says that I’m her favorite,” he remembered. “There was another gentleman, he would come in weekly to one of the institutions that I was locked up in as a juvenile and he would sing to us. I still remember him.”
Though Edwards noted he didn’t see hope in his situation, nor did he expect someone to change his life, he said he felt “a sense of ease” when those two adults were around him, adding that he “didn’t want that moment to end.”
As an adult, Edwards aims to be the same presence to adolescents in similar circumstances through UCAN, which offers anger management services, youth classes, drug and alcohol diversion efforts and community service opportunities.
“About 50 percent of our kids have already been in juvenile hall camp, so when they come to us, they need some mentorship, and that’s what we provide,” he said. “We provide an environment that’s safe for them to just come in and be themselves.”
For more information about UCAN, click here.