Youth Of One gears up for year two

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Art Garcia, Youth of One creator and organizer, leads a group of kids participating in the program at a local park. (Courtesy photo)

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Art Garcia and his organization Youth of One work to provide a place for Winters youth. Not only does Youth of One prepare young people for adulthood but also gets them there by instilling the organization’s core values of discipline, structure and respect.

Although born in Fresno, Garcia is a “Winters kid” through and through. He’s also a combat veteran who’s been deployed to Iraq twice, Afghanistan and South Korea. Nowadays, he’s employed at the Department of Veterans Affairs at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon and also coaches youth football in Winters. It’s when he was doing some off-season training with his nephews, however, that Youth of One — a name derived from the US Army slogan ‘Army of One’ — took root.

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Art Garcia and his organization Youth of One work to provide a place for Winters youth. (Courtesy photo)

“I lived in LA for about seven years after I retired from the Army, then decided to move back to my hometown. And I’ve always wanted to do something for the community and the youth here, it’s always been my passion. I also have three nephews that live here and I told them, ‘we’re going to start training for football before the season starts.’ And that was the original plan to just train my nephews. Well, they asked if their friends could come too and I said sure,” Garcia said explaining how his youth organization came to be. “I started thinking about it more and thought, why not do something for the whole community? It went from football training to, overall, more military marching, formations, and buddy-assisted training. I set up obstacle courses, we’d run and it just turned into a youth program and sort of a mini boot camp.”

While Garcia’s military mindset provides the structure for Youth of One, its mission isn’t to create soldiers; rather, give attending youths a chance to build self-esteem, confidence, social skills and respect through various forms of exercise and team-building activities. All of which builds an important foundation for these youths to grow.

“Last year we went from March to early July with early signups in February. Then every Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Blue Oak Park. The kids would show up, wear their Youth of One shirt and get (into) formation ready for roll call. Each parent would also get a calendar of what their child would be doing on these Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” said Garcia. “We would run, do obstacle courses, play flag football, basketball and more. But what I liked the most was watching some kids go from not talking to each other or not getting along, to helping each other and cheering each other on. You have no idea — that was the best feeling seeing that.”

With around 30 kids attending in the first year, Youth of One has already made an impact on the town, even marching in formation during last year’s Youth Day Parade. Garcia is still striving to achieve nonprofit status for his organization, but Lorenzo’s Town and Country Market has already stepped up to sponsor Youth of One, funding the printing of the shirts the participating youth wear. As has Garcia’s clothing company, DAJRAD (each representing the first letter of the names of his children and nephews — and founding members of Youth of One).

“Structure, no matter what, is something that has to be stable from youth until these kids become an adult. I also try to encourage respect. Respecting each other, respecting yourself and your adults. That just builds more character for each youth,” said Garcia. “And then for discipline, you can’t have — in my opinion — structure or respect without discipline. In order to build the structure and continue having respect and growing as a youth, you’ve got to have discipline. And I got that from the Army.”

After many thanks from different parents for the change they’ve seen in their children, Garcia is excited to bring back Youth of One for another year. The program will take place from March 1 through June 28 for children ages seven to 16 years old on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5–6 p.m.

One can stay up-to-date or get more information about Youth of One by checking out the organization’s Facebook page, by emailing youthofonewinters@gmail.com or by texting Garcia directly at 805-701-4731.

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