Homie Scholars give Winters youth a chance to make a difference

Homie Scholars program strives to prevent Winters teens from going down a destructive path.
JoseLuis Gutierrez and Ricardo Lemus Courtesy photo

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Homie Scholars, a local non-profit group, is looking to launch the second cohort for its after-school program for at-risk Winters teens. Since its original launch in November 2016, the program has undergone a transformation from its original curriculum of discussions and community beautification. Ricardo Lemus, founder of Homie Scholars, said the program looks at a variety of situations to bring teens of different backgrounds together to work together and support each other. He hopes to stimulate conversation between youth in different lifestyles, and have them discover a sense of pride in their hometown. The original ideas of volunteering and community service and college or vocational school success are still integrated into the new format and structure of the program Clecha. The idea of “Clecha” on the streets refers to the slang term of older homies passing down wisdom to younger homies. Lemus wants to reverse the negative to a positive by using the term to share advice and actions for teens in the program to build upon and educate them about their responsibilities in life to themselves and their community before going down a destructive path that could lead to a gang-related lifestyle or prison. Through the Clecha program participating teens must complete three phases. Phase one, “Stay Woke” is a lecture component where Lemus strives to wake teens up to topics including higher education, history of multicultural events and notable leaders.  “I want to wake them up to an appreciation of everyone,” said Lemus. “It might motivate you if you learn about it earlier.” Phase two, “10 Toes Down” puts teens out in the community taking actions to build up the community. This includes planting trees around town, removing graffiti and working community service opportunities.  “In the past our loyalty and pride would be to destroy our neighborhood, which is ridiculous,” said Lemus. “You’re destroying the thing you love.” Lemus wants to flip the idea so that instead of putting graffiti up to show loyalty and ownership of turf, teens are instead helping to rebuild it and not destroy it. Phase three, “Academia Game” Lemus wants teens to find out about the different options after high school. He takes teens on trips to college campuses, brings in mentors and college students to give presentations and answer questions on panels, as well as representatives from different vocational schools and the military. “In Homie Scholars we want you to be productive and successful. We don’t want you to be unproductive and destructive,” said Lemus. Participating teens still earn a special t-shirt upon completion of the program, but only if they work hard and put in the effort. Lemus said they have a strict guideline that participants can only miss a session once, and are out of the current program if they miss again. Teens can apply again for the next time around. According to Lemus, they stick to this because they want to bring responsibility and accountability to the program. “Sometimes life doesn’t give you another shot. We want to make sure we’re building responsibility and we’re not just handing it out,” said Lemus. “The idea is when you see another homie in that shirt you know he’s put in that time. He’s put in that work.” The Homie Scholar Bike Giveaway initiative is another way the group works to empower youth who live in the El Rio Villa, Yolo Housing in Winters off of Russell Boulevard. Lemus said the goal is to continuously give bikes away in different efforts until every kid in the complex has a bicycle. In tune with the Homie Scholars mission the Bike Giveaway Initiative gives the opportunity to children whose family may not be financially able to give it. “It’s me looking out for a young kid. Instead of putting a gun or drugs in their hands, I’m putting  a bike in their hands,” said Lemus. “It’s to make sure kids have an outlet to have fun, and by having fun they’re going to be exercising. Every kid loves a bike.” Winters High School senior JoseLuis Gutierrez has been participating in Homie Scholars since his 2016-17 school year and has helped to organize the third Bike Giveaway this spring. Gutierrez said he wants to help get kids active and outside. He said although the rainy season delayed the process, the non-profit was able to fix up and clean 25 gently used or new bikes to give to Winters youth. Lemus said the group is looking for a local sponsor for the next Bike Giveaway and volunteers who would like to help fix up and clean the bicycles.  “Anyone from Winters is welcome to participate. We want everyone to have fun and get together,” Lemus said. Parents and guardians who sees the Homie Scholars program as an opportunity for their child should contact Lemus for consideration for the second cohort.  Gutierrez said he recommends the program because it opened his eyes to ways he could make a difference in Winters.  “I didn’t pay as much attention to our community as I should and he (Lemus) showed me that sometimes we can do something for others in the community that need help,” said Gutierrez. “He showed me that all the work we do actually brings a good positive vibe toward everything.” For more information or to learn more about how to sponsor the bike giveaway or volunteer with the program, contact Lemus at homiescholars@gmail.com or 530-574-3806.]]>

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