Guatemala's First Lady Visits Youth For Tomorrow

Guatemala's First Lady Visits Youth For Tomorrow

October 15, 2012

It was a concern for and desire to better serve at-risk children in her own country that brought Guatemala's First Lady Rosa Leal de Perez to the campus of Youth For Tomorrow on Friday, October 12. The wife of President Otto Perez Molina is touring facilities in the United States that provide services to at-risk children. Several U.S. Government agencies which interact with such facilities recommended that she visit Youth For Tomorrow to learn about its successful programs which benefit children in the age 12-18 population of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. area for more than 27 years.

Guatemalan First Lady Rosa Leal de Perez  and YFT CEO Dr. Gary Jones discuss
their mutual concern for at-risk children.

YFT's CEO Gary Jones, PhD. and its Director of Program Services Courtney Gaskins, PhD. welcomed the First Lady. Twenty-four representatives from the Guatemalan Embassy, The Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops attended. In giving a brief history of YFT, Dr. Jones related how founder Joe Gibbs was spiritually- led to create a facility dedicated to helping the lost and lonely children who often fall through the cracks of bureaucracies and agencies. Coach Gibbs wanted to build a place where the children could live in home-like settings with counseling and educational programs that would allow them to grow spiritually and intellectually preparing them to confidently return to homes and society as changed individuals with hope for a future.

Dr. Gaskins gave an overview of the current programs that benefit the at-risk youth population at Youth For Tomorrow: homelessness, family Issues, various addictive problems, court assigned children, pregnant teens and those who have been forced into human trafficking.

With YFT's Lead Case Manager Maribel Velez acting as interpreter, Mrs. de Perez spoke fervently of her desire to initiate similar programs in Guatemala - programs that would help stem the tide of children leaving her country at a too-young age only to become ensnared in some of the same problems that caused them to leave . "I know it will be difficult because it never has been done before; but I am becoming stronger, more courageous and motivated to do this," she said.

Terry Tinsley, PhD., Director of Clinical Services, shared statistics from a study he completed of current YFT residents who are immigrants from Latin America. His study revealed that most leave for the opportunity for a better education or to find work. Mrs. dePerez, a former elementary school teacher, stated that in Guatemala an education is available to children through age 14. Mr. Tinsley further stated that while an education is available many students say they are afraid to go to school because of gang activity. Gangs typically recruit new members either en route to or at school. Mrs. dePerez would like to provide services and programs  to Guatemalan children that would encourage them to stay at home and not risk an often perilous journey with an uncertain future only to arrive on U.S. shores to be faced with lack of education and the same gang activity they tried to escape. In addition she is very concerned about the unaccompanied minor children crossing the border whom along the way are abused, exploited or forced into the human trafficking dilemma. "I want our children to have the chance to be children and not feel they have to leave home to fulfill their dreams," she stated.

The group toured the YFT school and residential facilities, then shared lunch with staff and some of the Latino students at the school.

At departure Dr. Jones commented to Mrs. dePerez, " Our common bond is our desire to serve children in a personal crisis. They are all God's children. We will do all we can to assist you in reaching out to the children you intend to help."

For Immediate Release

Contact: Donna Mahoney, YFT, 703-396-7239

Becky Whitelock, 540-347-7819

Manassas, VA