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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

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“Wii” can do it! Yes we can! Yes Joven can! And, yes San Antonio can too with Joven's support.
Jacqueline Beretta

January, 2009

San Antonio has the distinction of two national records.  You may smile at this exciting thought, but I am actually about to make you cry.  You see, SA has the highest rate of teen pregnancy rate in the nation AND the highest rate of obesity in the nation. Sorry to let you down, but it’s true and it’s really sad.  Economically, the situation is draining on our city county of funds that could go to more enlightening endeavours. 

San Antonio has about 300 gangs now, a serious drug problem (especially meth labs), and lots of STD's (sexually transmitted diseases).  Sounds like a big city doesn’t it?  With all the trappings that come from waking up from a sleepy town mentality.  If you haven't seen "Gran Torino", the new movie with Clint Eastwood, and you want to learn about what gang activity is like, how they recruit new members, keep them, what they do to communities.....then go.  It's a must.

And, then came Joven

In response to the alarming rise of juvenile crime and a growing gang problem in Bexar County  JOVEN started in the summer of 1992 through the Benedictine Resource Center.  With the help of Our Lady of the Lake, a $30,000 dollar seed grant, and four staff, JOVEN’s founders began working in the community.  Over time, through collaborative efforts with other local organizations and churches, JOVEN became a comprehensive agency that included outreach services, and structured activity for at-risk youth and their families.  In 1996, JOVEN was incorporated as an independent nonprofit community based organization.  Today JOVEN is recognized at the local, state and federal level as an innovative agency combating the problems and everyday issues of children and their families through education and support services. 

JOVEN’s mission is to develop character and resiliency in children by providing innovative, exciting programs and structured alternative activities designed to help them succeed. 

JOVEN has provided youth programming for more than 15 years.  The impetus for the creation of JOVEN in 1992 was to combat the negative influences of gang activity as well as to help children whose parents were incarcerated.  Since that time, JOVEN has offered a broad array of programs for youths and their families, including after-school, summer camp, abstinence education, victims’ services for abused children, parent training, and community improvement projects.  The results of these programs can be summarized as followed: 

·         More than 60,000 children served since 1992

·         Hundreds of parental training sessions conducted

·         Millions of hours of participation in structured, positive, healthy activities

·         Improved grades among enrolled children

·         Decreased absenteeism, truancy, and disciplinary actions among enrolled children

·         Thousands of dollars saved per family served by JOVEN’s free programs 

There are some great options to support in the Joven Program that will keep San Antonio kids occupied with healthy past times.  Here’s a look at two of them. 

Los Niños Sanos - the new program designed for the fattest city in America 

Children in San Antonio are more in danger of developing diabetes than ever before.  Among children worldwide, Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) has increased dramatically over the past ten years, correlating with the increase of weight and obesity that has been occurring in adults and children.  Currently, T2DM represents 95% of the reported diabetic cases.  As many as five million people are undiagnosed.  Among children, fully one-third who are diabetic have T2DM; as little as ten years ago, cases of T2DM among children were relatively rare.  Puberty is becoming the trigger point for adolescents being diagnosed with diabetes; 30% of newly diagnosed cases occur in the second decade of life with the mean age being 12-14 years.  Nationwide, it is estimated that one out of every three Caucasian and two out of every three Hispanic and African American children born in the U.S. will become diabetic.  If today’s child develops T2DM between ages 15 and 19, his or her life expectancy will be cut by approximately 23 years.  In fact, for the first time in documented history, we are facing the very real prospect that today’s children will have shorter lives than their parents. 

One reason for this life threatening increase in weight is that it is expensive to be fit.  The Texas Diabetic Institute verified that the west side of San Antonio has the highest rates of diabetes in the country.  In linking the cost factor to the high rate of T2DM, it is easy to determine that obesity is tied to poverty.  In working with families that are economically disadvantaged, JOVEN’s staff have discovered that not only are these families mostly of Hispanic origin, but also many are single-parent homes where only the mother is present.  

In San Antonio the yearly in-patient cost in 2005 to treat T2DM was $44,767 per person, compared to the national average of $39,400.  The out-patient cost in San Antonio was $5,956 per person, which is significantly higher than the national average of $3,712.  According to the Department of State Health Services, in 2005 there were 139,845 estimated cases of diabetes in San Antonio, which equates to 10.2% of the population.  Further, that same year there were 400,335 estimated cases of obesity, which represents 29.2% of the population of San Antonio.  Multiplying the yearly out-patient cost in San Antonio of $5,956 for diabetic care and the estimated cases of diabetes of 139,845 totals $832,916,820 in cost for San Antonio each year, and that does not even consider in-patient care, which drives the direct cost into the billions. 

JOVEN will implement an approach designed around the Biopsychosocial Model.  This model will take into consideration all factors of a child’s health and well-being: biological, psychological and social.  JOVEN’s programming nucleus will be physical activity in order to attend to the biological needs of a child.  The psychological factor will be examined and a JOVEN counselor will assist with treatment to combat negative factors to a child’s inability to achieve their goals of a healthy lifestyle.  The social factor will be addressed when JOVEN assists children to examine their environment, including culture that drives their choices. 

In order to generate interest and motivation among JOVEN’s participants, in addition to traditional physical activities such as dance and aerobics, JOVEN will introduce an innovation that will distinguish JOVEN’s program from any other: movement-based electronic games, based on the Nintendo Wii™ game set.  The Wii™ offers dozens of physically interactive games, including traditional sports such as baseball as well as movement-based games such as Super Mario© and Dance Dance Revolution©  

Many news outlets have reported how playing DDR can be good aerobic exercise; some regular players have reported weight loss of 10–50 pounds.  Participants will hardly be aware that they are exercising—but in fact are burning calories.   

In addition, recognizing nutrition’s importance as the other half of the health equation, JOVEN will provide nutritional information to participants. The Recreation Coordinator will be responsible for the daily implementation of Los Niños Sanos, ensuring the program is in compliance with grant requirements, adheres to the budget, a high-quality effort, and produces the expected outcomes.  A Case Manager will assist in documenting each case file and securing additional services.  A Counselor will design and implement appropriate psychological interventions and identify the psychological barriers to a healthy weight; children will be assessed for ancillary problems such as eating disorders and depression.  If necessary, the counselor will make appropriate recommendations and referrals to a doctor to rule out physical deficiencies that may be causing a weight problem.  A curriculum will also be implemented that is designed to raise self-esteem and promote a positive body image.  Classroom aides will provide logistical support. 

Los Niños Sanos will follow the school year calendar, resuming the following school year with a new cohort of children.  The program will be implemented in five (5) eight-week cycles with two weeks between cycles. Accounting for school closures (e.g., Thanksgiving), this schedule equals 52 weeks.  The program will be implemented five days a week (Monday through Friday) from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Outside of the program’s scheduled hours, participants will be asked to record their activity (e.g., exercise and watching TV) and nutrition. 

Summer Camp 

JOVEN began offering Summer Camp back in the 1990s due to the need to provide constructive, healthy activities for children in the summer time when many low-income families in JOVEN’s service area could not afford commercial camps.  Camps were offered at both Harlandale and Losoya sites, as they are now.  Over the course of more than a decade, Joven has served more than 6,000 low-income children in San Antonio with their Summer Camp program. 

Joven’s Summer Camp is free, that is if they are funded sufficiently.

Because of poverty, parents who must often work two jobs cannot afford expensive after school care.  They cannot afford the fees charged by other agencies for these services.  Other organizations offer summer camp programs in the area, but camp fees can cost up to $110 per week, or $440 per month.  Commercial child care costs $100-$115/week in the area.  The City Parks and Recreation Department operates the Afterschool Challenge and Kids Quest summer programs in certain schools and PlayZone in community centers, but services are often limited to 75 children per site, and not every school has a program.  None of these programs operate in the Losoya area, so parents there do not have the option to pay for services in their own community.  Unless a parent qualifies for a limited number of slots for the Child Care Delivery System of San Antonio, only available in one site in this area, parents have few options for summer programs.  The other alternative is home care, most commonly by a grandparent, other relative, or a neighbor.  The quality of services children receive under home care are often inadequate, with no educational rationale and limited opportunities for physical exercise.

Beyond the economic barriers for parents, JOVEN Summer Camp will meet multiple needs of the children served.  It is often the case that a child “loses ground” during the summer months.  Children participating in JOVEN Summer Camp will be engaged in educational activities, including Life Skills instruction provided by our degreed professionals, as well as educational field trips to museums and cultural sites.  Childhood obesity has become a serious nationwide problem, and the obesity rate in San Antonio is among the highest in the U.S. JOVEN Summer Camp will provide enrolled children with daily exercise as well as nutritious meals to help counter unhealthy habits such as sedentary lifestyles and high carb/high fat meals.  Finally, the city streets can be a dangerous place for a child who is unsupervised.  Idle hours become conducive to negative or even illegal activities.  JOVEN summer camp will engage enrolled children are engaged in constructive activities every minute of every day throughout the summer, ensuring they are developing in positive ways, and, most important, are safe. 

Meet Meagan Rodriguez 

“At an early age, Meagan Rodriguez’s mom became very concerned with her daughter’s lack of growth but doctors attributed her condition to an inevitable growth spurt that would eventually allow her to reach her normal height.  The doctor’s explanation gave Meagan’s mom a peace of mind until she discovered in 2005 that she had a small stature disorder and was suffering from scoliosis of the spine.  Further testing revealed that she had two patches of fluid on her spinal cord which would require surgery.  Recommendations for surgery were quickly made but her mom and physician wanted to wait until she grew a bit more.  The harsh reality was that surgery could mean paralysis for Meagan.  The news was devastating to her family but Meagan took the news as well as a child could. 

Megan continued to be active and was excited to join the JOVENes Artes Dance program in the fall of 2005.  Meagan was a quick learner but very quiet.  Growing up wasn't  emotionally easy for Meagan either because she’s a twin.  She would get teased because of her size or would be left out because of her limitations.  To help her self-esteem, her dance instructor made her a team captain with responsibility.  Within weeks, Meagan was feeling more confident and sure of herself. 

At first glance, you would never know that Meagan suffers from physical and emotional ailments because she is a vibrant 9 year old with a huge heart.  When Meagan asked about what she wants to be when she grows up, she said, “ I want to be a counselor so that people can talk to me about their families and about their feelings.”  Meagan’s goal this year is to get straight A’s. 

“All the kids make fun of me because I’m a 9 year old in a 5 year old body.  I hate it but I can’t do anything about it.  I like going to JOVEN because I can do things that I like without being told that I’m too little.  I like being on T.V. but I don’t like to be on stage because you can see people watching.  I get excited but I’m still shy.”  Meagan has been a part of the JOVEN family for 4 years now.”

Leadership and funding needs

James Parsons, CEO of Joven says, “The kids look forward to camp. Through wholesome activities such as dancing, swimming and arts and crafts, Joven works on character development.  Whether visiting a museum, the missions or hiking a wilderness trail, Joven hopes to build resiliency in each child. Its field trips are to places that are free, low-cost or, like the San Antonio Children's Museum, where Joven gets a break on admission.

Joven has 12 programs funded by city, state and federal grants.  The bill for summer camp came to $70,000. Joven wants $200,000 for next year's program. With that, it can serve 200 children in each session, 400 total.”  

Last year diminishing public and private funds and increasing need caused funding problems for the programs. At the last minute, the Dena and Lawrence Cade Fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation gave a $12,000 grant.  Bravo!!  Together with small amounts from other sources, Joven was able to serve 120 children from Mexican American families living below the federal poverty level, 60 in each of its sessions. 

Let me leave you with a cute story James Parsons likes to tell:

Parsons heard a conversation between a dance instructor and student at a Joven gala held in the three-story, 12,000-square-foot Red Berry Mansion on Gembler Road.

As the dancers readied for a performance, one girl looked around and said, “Someday I want to live in a place like this.”

Then the instructor asked her, “Well, what do you have to do?”

“I've got to stay in school.”

Then what?”

“I've got to get good grades.”

“And then?”

“Then I have to go to college.”


“Then I've got to get a job.”

Wow.  Sounds like they are making headway over at Joven.  Let’s support the camp and dance programs and watch our city and our children grow stronger and focused.

You can reach James Parsons, CEO at


Mailing address: P.O. Box 14007

Physical address: 102 W. White

San Antonio, TX 78214

(210) 924-0330

(210) 924-0670 fax

(210) 347-1020 mobile

Check out our new Web site!


Want to support JOVEN?

Go to:

Joven's Wish List:

1) Digital Camera 

2) Conference Room Table and Chairs

3) 6 Easels

4) Large agency laminating machine

5) Laptops

6) Security fence for Employee Parking lot 

7) Security Camera for the Employee Parking Lot


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