A Collection of Letters From Concerned People of Stockton

September 15, 2009 




SUBJECT:              TEEN FORUM – OCTOBER 1, 2009


The youth of our community are one of Stockton’s most valuable resources.  They face many challenges related to literacy, gang violence, lack of services and budget cuts to education.  Save Our Stockton, a youth group dedicated to improving services and the quality of life for teens and young adults, is urging us – as a community to help.  They are asking for a voice and services in our community.


Please join me and my colleagues at a forum for teens and young adults on Thursday, October 1, 2009, 6:00 p.m., in the Stewart Hazelton Room of the Cesar Chavez Library.  Please come prepared to share your thoughts, ideas, and information about you and your organization. We will be there to learn about existing services and the needs of our youth.  We want to hear from you.


Together, we can make a difference! This is your opportunity to share your experience and knowledge to produce better outcomes for Stockton and to meet the challenges that face our young people in our City. 


For additional information, please call Florence Low at (209) 937-8279.








Dear Stockton,

      Our city is in a state of emergency.  We were already troubled and now the budget crisis will only exacerbate the problems with crime, literacy, the school district, and ranking as one of the most miserable cities.  In the midst of these plethora of issues, the youth of this city will be lost- It’s time to proclaim SOS!  Save Our Stockton.

      The most vulnerable victims of these circumstances have been the youth.  The 3 million Teen Center does not welcome visitors nor provides sufficient programming, youth leadership development programs such as the City’s Youth Leadership Academy have been scraped, the City’s Youth Advisory Commission is not being utilized,  summer school has been cut short,  and venues like the Candy Shop have been closed down.  so truly now there is nothing to do in Stockton.   What are the consequences of this lack of positive activity? Credibility to the adage that there is nothing to do in Stockton; not to mention an increase in crime, loitering, gang activity, and overall unhappiness.

      The Situation is indeed bleak, but we can Save Our Stockton!  First it will take a commitment on the part of city council to establish a task force to investigate best practices from other cities in regard to youth programming.  Secondly, it will require a complete overhaul of the (lack of ) Impact Teen Center so that it can truly be an open space for all teens to come, and not a space just to be rented out to the highest bidder.  Thirdly, it requires that each of us examine and realize what it is that we can do to help alleviate the situation.

      Save Our Stockton!  Together we can change the perception of the city and engage youth in the discussion of how to move forward in these pressing economic times.  Other cities like Sacramento have done it, and Stockton can to.  As this budget crisis has shown us our most value resource is not our tax revenue or income stream, but our human capital.  It won’t cost much to save our city and our youth and the rewards will reap benefits both now and decades ahead.


Save Our Stockton
Youth Coalition

To Save Our Stockton and City of Stockton Stakeholders,

Hello to everyone. My name is Ronak Patel and I will be a senior at Lincoln High School. I am a currently a second year Youth Advisory Commission (YAC) member.

I must say that I was appalled when I thoroughly went through the contract that the city had with the Boys and Girls Club of Stockton. There have been major obligations and requirements that have not been fulfilled in accordance to the contract by both parties but especially the city. I am shocked at the lack of activities there are for teens even as the city is filled with the necessary facilities and the contractual obligation to provide for these much needed activities. Being a teen in general is something that should be cherished and creating a community that has activities and events for youth so that they can become better citizens for tomorrow is the antidote for success in any community.

I feel somewhat ashamed to say this but until I became involved with SOS, I was only vaguely aware that we even had a teen center in the city of Stockton. I personally have never been to the center myself but I still believe that it is important for the community to plan and have activities for the youth. One area of the contract that I am extremely concerned about is clause “2 d, page 2”. It states that YAC is the “chief advisory board for the teen center”. This really surprises me because I am sure that we as a YAC commission did not physically go down to the center, let alone interact with the club. None of the events solely planned out by YAC and other affiliates from the previous year were held at the teen center. Clauses “2 e and 2 m, page 3” state how the city will help the club market and promote events held at the center. I must say this has not been fulfilled thoroughly because I have not been aware of events held at the teen center. Clause “2 j, page 3” states that YAC members will have free membership to the center, but I never received any membership pass to visit and utilize any equipment at the facility and I am sure that none of the other YAC commissioners either. Clause “3 s, page 5” also caught my attention. The clause defines certain events that will be held at the teen center during certain months such as a speech and debate competitions and battle of the bands. Neither of these events or a few of the other events that were stated took place at the teen center. Lastly 3 s. states that the YAC and YEAT will hold regular meetings in the teen center, but none of the YAC or YEAT meetings were held at the teen center the previous year. These are just a few of the unfulfilled obligations that I spotted in the contract. I joined YAC and I want to join the Save Our Stockton movement because I would like to assist in fixing these problems and creating a better community for the youth. This is one of the reasons that my friend Alexander Bronson and I initiated a discussion group called Xpress YourSELF. We presented this idea to YEAT in May 2009 and we received unanimous approval. If this group had not been suspended and the contract between the COS and B & G Club was being fulfilled, our group are group would not have been delayed in getting started.

Youth need to be active in the community and we need to be given the adequate tools and support to thrive in a community environment.

Ronak Patel

Dear failing city,

      I am writing this letter to your tattered streets and crumbling curbs, which I once recalled as pleasant childhood, because I am concerned. I am concerned that the well-being of such a treasured memory will be put to rest, and not be able to reap the magnificent children you had once gathered as your own.

      As I write this letter, tears sit at the edge of my eye lashes, gathering one by one, and waterfall of emotion streams down my face. I don’t want to return to your streets, to my home, and see my memories be ripped into pieces because you have let yourself succumb to criminals. My sadness is not alone. So many people care about you, but you need to lift your tired arms and reach out; we will reach back.  

      You raised me from a young child, and after eighteen years, you sent me off into the world as a man. But during that time of growth, I found you, the city I grew up loving with all my soul, change drastically. Each year you became less welcoming to the youth of our city. No longer could the laughter of children playing out in the streets be heard; the noises seemed to fade into the past. Now, only the memories of times when your arms nestled us safely float around the streets like ghosts. I return to Stockton expecting to find an old friend waiting for me, but you have changed too much. The security I once felt walking the streets of your town have vanished, and I yearn for days past. You have let your heart become infected with crime, showing little strength to deter the demons in your life. Your appearance has become raggedy and thin, with unkempt streets and parks littering the areas that once were home to your happy residents.

      This letter to you, my dear friend, is an urgent message of love. The children who have come to call you home are worried that you will not last through the upcoming years. There are so many young people who care about your well being; and not just your well being, but the well being of all those children developing in your presence today. You are raising the future, Stockton. We need to give them their hope back, hope that one day they will be able to let go of your hand, and be prepared with happy memories and promising lives; so that hopefully they will be able to reflect on your guidance with happiness, rather than the sorrow my generation feels now.

      All of your children love you, and we will do whatever it takes to get you back. When you need a helping hand, just call upon all of us and we will be there to help dig you out of the deep hole you have so knowingly trapped yourself. Change will not be easy by any means, and we all accept that, but if you can help us we will help back. Together we can change the woes of education, crime, and real estate. All we need is to work together; two parts of a once great city, its streets, and its people, joining as one to make you, Stockton, a place to be proud of once more.

      With love and hope,
            A concerned child,
                  Lorenzo Ramon Ortega

Crying Out as Concerned Citizens:

Being a teen in Stockton has been and still is the worst experience in my life. I feel like right as soon as I turn 18, I want to get out of this God forsaken place. Everyone I know feels the same way. Stockton is not a “youth friendly” place. It is not a good environment for youth to grow and develop positively. Who caused our city to be such a “non-youth friendly” place? The answer is our City Council, the people adults of our city put into power. On Stockton’s website you can find the city’s core values, vision statement, and city council goals. I read over these things several times and did not once see the word “youth” mentioned. Is the youth not part of our city’s core values, vision statement, or city councils goals? Is the youth worth anything to the city? We all need to stand up and break our silence before the problem gets worse. We need to be aggressive and demand change from the people we put into office. As said by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, “Silence is betrayal.” Do not let silence betray us, speak up and be heard. There is an obvious problem amongst us. To make Stockton a better place for future generations, we need to change our generation.
-Scharlyce Powell, 14

Unrequited Love
I love Stockton, California. Growing up in the city, I am confident in saying this. I love Stockton despite what the vast majority of my friends say about it. I keep Stockton in my prayers and encourage others to do so. I love Stockton and I do not have to explain why. I have the right to love my city, and I do. But I am not sure Stockton loves me.
I do not see how a city could love me when it takes away music in the elementary schools where my little sisters attend. I do not see how a city could love me when, because of it, my mother almost got laid off from her teaching job. I do not see how a removal of counselors, the ones who point the youth in the right direction of their future, shows any type of love for me or any of the youth. We are being stripped of our necessities and our younger siblings have to pay for it academically. To be young in Stockton for me is to see schools decline yearly. Pretty soon, Stockton will have to change the first part of its vision statement, “Stockton will be a vibrant, diverse city of educated and upwardly mobile citizens who are engaged in civic life.”
I love this city; I really do. But I’m not quite sure my love is reciprocated.
Joshua D. Washington
University of the Pacific

Marijuana and alcohol are two substances that consume the lives of many young Stocktonians. This statement does not just include the stereotypical thug sporting baggy pants and excessive jewelry. It also includes the straight A student, the football jock, the captain of the cheer squad, the rocker dude, and every one else whose name falls in between. Drugs and alcohol have become a social norm, and quite frankly, they are too easy to obtain. It is a problem that occurs in every school and in every community.                            Efforts have been made to eliminate this problem, but we must take this situation beyond “Don’t Do Drugs” commercials. I am not attacking the effectiveness of these commercials, in fact I believe they have a positive impact, but we must continue to make an effort to offer more alternatives whether it be through sports or teen programs. Dealing with these unhealthy teen habits must become a major priority in our city, and we must find a way to rescue our youth. Change must take place in order to secure a better future for our generation, and generations to come.

Jordan Williams

"For fifteen years I’ve lived in a town were I did not feel welcome or safe. Stockton for me is the worst place possible to live. There is no friendly environment what-so-ever for the youth and not to many “youth friendly” programs for me to be involved in. I find this city completely useless to youth. I never wanted to grow up in a city known as, “one of the worst cities in the US.” I am now at an age where I can see all of the negativity of this city. I can finally have the chance to have my voice heard by all of you. This is a dangerous, boring, ‘dead’ city. I cannot imagine who would want to or enjoy living here. Once I reach the age of where I leave high school and hopefully move on to college, I plan on leaving this dreadful city and moving to a place where all my memories of Stockton will be forgotten. So in my overall opinion, this place is the worst city I have ever known, possibly in the entire United States of America. Although I was raised and born here, I believe I wasted fifteen good years living in a place where I do not want to be."    

 -Ashleigh Hedstrom, 15

              Barack Obama promised the “change;”  that filled Americans with belief and aspiration. It is what we all wanted to hear. This one word brings us together and lights us all with a passion that burns. We want change, because it gives us hope. Hope that maybe we will be heard; Hope that maybe, just maybe, it will change our life for the better. Living fourteens years in Stockton, I’ve seen what change has done to draw people forward, but it doesn’t quite bring us together. My generation, a young generation, one that will soon make its entrance into the world, wants change. We want to see teens make bonds and join together, to know that they are not alone, there are other people just like them, who share common interests and there is a whole city supporting us through every step. A council, of youths, would use their benefit of power to make sure that our generation of teenagers, comes together to put aside all differences and make a change for our community. Stockton, rated second worst place to live in all of the U.S., could make its comeback with a strong, united, and composed youth. The youth is our future, lets make it good.
For the teens of Stockton, “Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you,” –Emerson
Alexander Flores

 Growing up in Stockton looking back at it now there really isn't anything big that stands out in my memory as something that had a big impact on the person I'm turning out to be. I see it like I've faced lifes obsticales head on figuring out everything step by step.
  I remember being in elementry school when things were easy. Everything was black and white, either right or wrong. There wasn't anything in between. Teachers were there to help us and lead us in the right direction.
 middle school was a little different. Black and white wasn't really there anymore. I was harder to point out what was right and what wasn't. Teachers were there to help us, (some at least).  Some teachers were just babysitters with a degree, they were just killing time waiting for the end of the day to come around. Some were there to help us I won't lie about that. I thank those teachers. I really do. Those teachers that had faith in us, the ones that knew we were destined for something greater. Eight grade graduation came around and we were off to high school.
  In high school black and white turned gray. On your own to figrue things out.  No one holding your hand or watching your every step to make sure you didn't fall. Now that I think about it playing basketball all four years of high school was the best thing. It didn't get me anywhere as in a basketball scholarship or down the path of going pro, but it made me try my best to make grade in order to play. I met some gret people that are still to this day a part of my life. We had a similar intrest and we supported one another. We all played a part in each others lives. If I need help with a certain subject I knew which teamate I ould turn to. Whatever the situation someone was there. If not one of us more. I noticed teachers in high school lost hope quick. Some got sick of us half way before the school year was even over. We were just there to fill in a desk so the school could get money.
  I'm out of high school now and currently furthering education. I have seven younger cousins that have lived in Stockton all there lives also and I find it sad in that none of them attend a school in this district. SUSD sadly isn't doing good. It has so much work that has to be done. I love stockton. I don't love the path it's heading down. Let's not lose hope like most people already have.

                                                     Veronika A. Chavez