Student Services Facilitator, Phil Ortega, is on a mission.
Ortega is concerned about the safety of the children, chiefly in District 9 where he is employed, but also children in general. And his concern extends to the citizens of the Rogue Valley, especially in higher crime areas. He has a heartfelt concern for those residing in White City because the community lacks just that; a sense of community. Repeated attempts to form an incorporated city have failed, leaving the area a sea of homes without a central agency to pull it all together.
One of the large and looming problems in the area is that of gangs. Evidence is all around that hiding in the darkness of some of the less lighted streets are those who have done their best to encourage young people to join them and thereby gain identity they currently lack.
One of Ortega’s projects has recently come to fruition with the aid of the local Rotary club, who helped by providing funds to purchase a machine to erase the ugly scars of graffiti. This Graffiti-Soda Blaster is used by the youth in the area to erase the writing on the walls that signify at least two things: gang activity and a blatant disregard for the property of others.
Ortega also puts together community nights for the White City Community to acquaint both youngsters and their parents in self defense and the all-important knowledge to avoid situations that may eventually prove harmful to a person’s health. In putting together the Mar. 8 event, he enlisted the help of several agencies, including the Jackson County Sheriff’s department, the Drug Enforcement Agency, Medford Police, the Oregon National Guard and, of course, School District #9.
During the evening, the large crowd, numbering about 100 adults and children, broke into two groups to enable everyone the chance get a close look at the topics being taught. One group was presented a slide show and lecture about gang activity within the Rogue Valley. There they learn that certain colors and insignias are the property of certain gangs and what to do if they are encountered. Identification can help a person keep from blundering into the midst of a gang and being sucked in before they have knowledge of what is going on.
The other demonstration concerned personal safety and how to avoid circumstances that could lead to injury or death. Oregon National Guard and Sheriff’s personnel showed some maneuvers that can diffuse a situation and cause an assailant to give up the attack. Some of the tactics involve the very things most learned as a child, biting, gouging, and screaming, kicking and other means of warding off an assault. Sheriff’s personnel cautioned youngsters of preventative measures that should be first followed. Never walk in dark places, never walk alone and never approach suspicious looking persons. Use cell phones to take pictures of assailants, if possible, run from a situation and seek help from law enforcement personnel immediately. If walking at night, carry a flashlight, and never be cooperative with bad guys unless you find yourself in a situation where there is a real immediate threat like a person holding a knife at your throat, for instance.
One important thing brought out is that gangs use the same social media, such as facebook and twitter, as everyone else. Be cautions that you know who is on the other end of the line when engaging in those activities that otherwise might look innocent.
Headstart also participated in the event and provided a translation for those who have not mastered skills in English.