Thursday, December 22, 2011

news from a person I admire: Luis Montes MD

Youth ALIVE! saves lives.
Dear Caheri,

Caheri and Tammy hugging
Caheri Gutierrez and Tammy Cloud embrace at Youth ALIVE!'s 20th Anniversary celebration
Back on November 10th, I joined nearly 150 of you in celebrating Youth ALIVE!'s 20th anniversary. It's difficult to express what it felt like to be in that room, particularly after hearing 21-year-old Caheri Gutierrez tell her story.

Three years ago, while stopped at a traffic light in East Oakland, Caheri was shot in the face. It was humbling to hear about her struggles and triumphs. Her story was also a story about Tammy Cloud, who she called "my guardian angel, my hero."

After listening to Caheri talk about Tammy, I couldn't help but reflect on some other heroes from the last two decades: Deane Calhoun, Sherman Spears, Marilyn Harris, the hundreds of Teens on Target youth leaders like Marianne Williams. If you couldn't join us there, I invite you to learn about Youth ALIVE!'s history, learn Caheri's story, and read the poem that Marianne wrote for that night. 
I also hope you'll consider joining me and everyone at Youth ALIVE! in our work to end youth gun violence for good by making a tax-deductible end of year gift.

Wishing you a peaceful new year,
donate buttonLuis Montes, MD 
Youth ALIVE! Board President

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

memories are fresh

As I was looking through my photobucket I clicked into this picture of myself. 
I stared for a good minute and then let out a sigh
sometimes I wish I could go back, sometimes I wish I could look like this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

my abstract for a grant writing to implement Violence Prevention and Social Skills curriculum


This project will implement a violence prevention and social skills curriculum, it will be a multi-resource, non-profit effort to create a safe community while teaching youth valuable skills, rehabilitate existing trauma damage, build self esteem, and conflict resolution, and create community leaders within the Oakland Unified School District.  

While most youth learn social skills through their everyday interactions with parents and family, it is also very important that educators, adults and peers reinforce the learning. It is important that we recognize that not all children are taught proper behaviors like interpersonal skills and conflict resolution. These behaviors play a major part in building a positive core within a person. Oakland is notoriously known for sky rocketing murder rates, senseless killings, ignorance and a city filled with range. By providing children with a curriculum that focuses at a very young age discussing morally correct skills and violence free relations we can put a stop to the vicious cycle that continues to circulate in Oakland. While there are many root cause of violence in Oakland like media, lack of positive role models, poverty, easy access to guns drugs and alcohol as well as fear we must first address these issues by building recognition to the negative. By making a curriculum like this mandatory youth will learn practice positive behavior, they will reach academic success and there will be school and community wide safety.

Implementing this proposal benefits the county as a whole by promoting positive relations, reducing the amount of violence and increasing educational futures. This means that the county will save money that is being spent on medical trauma care and imprisonment costs. With a curriculum that takes the child from k-12 students will grow to be great communicators, their ability to make socially conscious choices will be strengthened their relations which leads to a positive life and community.

Friday, December 9, 2011

a letter from sarah

this recent letter from Sarah touched my heart, i had to file it.



mi madre me dijo que te vio.. que tu estas trabajando en una organizacion y que estas famosa por haber escrito un libro sobre tu vida. no me soprendio nada de esta....
pero llore cuando lo me dijo ella y ahorita estoy llorando todavia cuando te escirbo esto porque me pone tan feliz que no te puedo describir
ese dia o noche cuando nos reunimos en alameda hace dos o tres anos
ese tiempo yo fue en un parte dificil de mi vida porque mi mente se me perdio... y tu era una de las unicas personas a quien yo pudo llamar. recuerdo cuando un ano antes de eso jana me ha llamado por telefono cuando estaba yo en Charleston y ella me dijo que te paso. yo no supe lo que pensar y solamente llore y estaba confundida por lo que no entendia y todavia nunca he experimentada. pero sentia tan triste de que tu te encontraste en una situacion como eso y que tu bonita y amable misma ha experimentade esa tipo de pena. como dije no sabia lo que hacer de eso o que debia hacer... solamente te pensaba en ti y esperaba que tu estuviera viva y sano y asi.
entonces cuando estabamos hablando esa noche en alameda cuando fuimos para helado y sentabamos en le mesa afuera de esa tienda y hablabamos.. cuando to me dijiste lo que paso esa noche yo no tenia palabras solo podia imaginar lo que has experimentado de lo que me contaste tu.
desde nos conocimos por la primera vez yo siempre veia tan increible que tu eres. no solamente porque tu vida habia sido mas dificil que la mio y tu necesitabas luchar mas para lo que querias tu.. yo veia que tu jugabas el voleibol con mas energia y emocion que nadie que habia conocido antes. pero ademas.. tu me ensenaste tantas cosas cuando estabamos jugando juntos y despues. tu me ensenaste cosas super funny como bailar, como besar! haha, como decir whatitdo hahaha. y tuvimos este tipo de divertido a pesar de nuestras caminos o vidas diferentes..y desde ti yo casi nunca oye ningunas palabras negativas.(aunque yo pienso que recuerdo que yo quejaba mucho..) pero lo que quiero decirte el algo que ahora yo se que tu algo que no pensaba que tenia yo, y puedo entender que es mas dificil entender tu propio poder cuando muchas personas o cosas te dices diferente.. pero lo que estoy tratando de decir es que ese dia cuando hablabamos yo quiso cambiar todas cosas en el mundo que pudieron haber hecho algo como eso a ti... o a los otros ninos o gente quienes tienen bastante poder bastante amor pero todavia les pasaron cosas horribles... anyway... i wanted to say that you have been such an important person in my life and that I haven't read your book or blog ... i have been worried about you, since we saw eachother that day. i worked out my life since then, i was really lost, and i really hoped and knew that you would find a way to share your self your story your wisdom and your love with so many other people or just one who needed it. it brings me to tears to know that you are happy and i just want you to know that you have taught me things and impacted me to be aware, tolerant, empathetic, and positive. and i wanted to write to you in spanish because its like a way of catching up without talking too much! but i am learning spanish like i always used to love the language and still do. just wanted to tell you that my mom told me this and i cried out of happiness for you and all that you have overcome.
i hope you are well!let me know what you think.
love, Sarah

yesterday was a great day

yesterday was a great day , I saw Patricia Taggart.
Patricia Taggart to me is like another angel that was put in my life to mold me into the individual that i am today.
when I was 13 years of age I played volleyball for the Golden Bears of California. On that team i met a volleyball player who i recognized from my elementary and middle school volleyball league.
Sarah and I together on the right.
her name was Sarah Taggart
Sarah was the setter of our team. She was quick, she was skilled she was clutch and she was also one of the sweetest people that I had ever met. Her and I developed a friendship, i mean this girl had such a positive energy a hilarious humor and a sweet soul, just like her mother Patti Taggart.
Patti means alot to me because she gave me and my family a hand. She opened up her doors to me and accepted me and cared for me. She is such a beautiful woman.
playing for Golden Bear meant that i had to travel often, many times from city to city and also to different states.
It also meant that alot of money and time where required... something that my single mother didnt have too much of. 
Patti was like my guardian whenever we would be away. I was very young and I always missed my mom, all of the other mothers on the team where able to fly out with us or join us when we played but because my mother had to work to keep up with bills she was never there. 
So Patti stepped in , she was my cheerleader she gave me pats on the back she would prepare a snack and lunch for me and Sarah. She would invite me over to her beautiful home in the Piedmont area, Sarah and I would have sleepovers where I would teach both Sarah and Patti how to dance. When volleyball practice was over she would give me rides to my house , better yet apartments or duplex's in the hood. She would wait for me to get inside my house until she drove off.

Im just very grateful for this woman because she exposed me to a different lifestyle to a different lingo a different view on life. She never judged me and she always acknowledge me. Thanks to Patti and her family I grew up having a different mindset, much different from the people in my neighborhood. She unknowingly showed me a different side of life.

Years went on and Sarah and I grew apart, went to college and lived a different life.
I stopped playing volleyball and got shot.
maybe I can understand why they became distant.

Anyways its crazy how the universe works, yesterday the story was printed some important people from Childrens Hospital of Oakland came into our office to meet with my director.
I was getting ready to leave the office to go to my Castlemont afterschool program.
Apparently my director gave those people a copy of the story and a woman who was in the room said
" I know this girl I know this girl "
Thats when John my director starting calling my name and said "someone in here wants to say hello."

I walk towards the conference room confused but as soon as i stepped in i saw a face I knew, a face I loved
it was Patti, Patti Taggart.


I Caheri Scarface Gutierrez
am completely overwhelmed
but listen you can be happily overwhelmed or you can be sadly overwhelmed
trying to concentrate on tasks but all i keep thinking about is life
and how crazy it has been for me both good and bad.
the booklet has been published, its a very short 2 page booklet that compresses my story and the work that youth alive does, it has pretty pictures and the colors are vibrant printed on very nice paper. GREAT

people OFFFFFTEENN ask me 
Its almost like they expect to hear that im shy about it, that im uncomfortable, that i want to cry at that very moment, but in reality im not.
I see this project as an amazingly cool thing ,
im actually flattered and whenever i share my story i feel comfortable
i feel the URGE.

my experience was traumatizing, actually it continues to traumatize me, terrorize me, scandalize me and scare me
but with all that mess , there needs to be order
there needs to be a solution so others wont ever have to feel this way.

so i ask myself why do i feel this way?
ive realized that i still continue to suffer from PTSD
(post traumatic stress disorder)

im stressed , depressed but well dressed
i cant put the pieces of the puzzle together but at the same time im happy.
im on a high right now 
the situations that i have experienced while working at Youth Alive
are one of the BEST experiences
they have enlightened me , empowered me , taught me , loved me.