Letter: Antioch is Failing its Young People—But We Can Stop It

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My friends thought I was crazy to move my wife and five children to Antioch three years ago. I can’t blame them. I read the headlines, and I know what people think of our city. But I also know that everything is not as it seems.

Our move to Antioch worked out great. We live in a large, beautiful home on a quiet street. Our neighborhood, like our city, is extremely diverse, and I’m grateful that my kids aren’t growing up among clones of themselves. We know our neighbors and they’re wonderful. Our two youngest boys attend Carmen Dragon Elementary School and love it.

However, I realize my experience is not like everyone else’s. As a vice president of a public relations and marketing firm, I’m fortunate to work from home, so I’m around my kids constantly. Many Antioch parents do not have this opportunity, which means their kids often come home to empty houses—or they find somewhere else to go or something else to do.

As a member of Carmen Dragon’s school site council, I learned Carmen Dragon is a low performing school with a chronic student absentee problem and a host of other challenges. Nearly three-quarter of my sons’ classmates come from socio-economically disadvantaged households. Yet there is no afterschool program at Carmen Dragon or at many other schools in the district.

I’ve also learned many kids in Antioch want to play sports, but their parents cannot afford to take time off work to take them to practices or games, let alone volunteer or coach.

When we signed our boys up for CYO basketball, they weren’t going to play unless I volunteered to coach both of their teams. When I did, I discovered nearby parishes have multiple teams at each grade level. But at our parish, some grades didn’t even have a team. In fact, there is only one girls’ team for the entire parish.

This is a huge difference from Concord, where we used to live. Every school our children attended had afterschool programs. Concord also has the Community Youth Center, an enormous facility that offers all types of programs, including wrestling, cheerleading, gymnastics, tutoring for grade schools and high schools, and more. It’s super cheap and open every day until 9pm. Our three older kids, who attended school in Martinez and Pleasant Hill, had access to a Boys and Girls Club and a YMCA, which were always full of kids and activities.

Antioch has nothing like these facilities. What we do have is a large community center on Lone Tree, across the street from Dear Valley High School. It has a gym, a full-service kitchen, a ballroom and an amphitheater. It should be filled with kids every day. Yet it is often empty after 5pm, when many parents are getting off work and just beginning their long commute home.

After three years here, it’s become evident that Antioch is failing its youth. Is it really any wonder why we have higher crime rates than other cities? We can hire police officers until we’re blue in the face—no pun intended—but this won’t prevent our young people from behaviors and influences that lead to trouble.

So what does help? Study after study has proven the availability of structured, daily afterschool programs, Boys and Girls Clubs and community-based organizations targeting at-risk youth are effective at reducing crime. District attorneys, police chiefs and sheriffs across our nation support these programs because they actually improve public safety.

According to a massive, nationwide study by the Council for a Strong America, a bipartisan nonprofit comprised of law enforcement officials, military and business leaders, pastors, coaches and athletes, afterschool programs save communities at least $3 for every $1 invested by increasing a child’s future earning potential, improving their performance at school and reducing crime and welfare costs.

Recently, I sat in on a Antioch Youth Services Task Force meeting and listened to young people say they don’t feel safe at school or in the community. They want more things to do, but our city just doesn’t offer them.

I’ve also sat in on city council meetings and listened to how people thought we should spend Measure W funds. Some folks want all of the money to go toward adding more police. But until we invest in our youth, we will only be able to react to crime, not prevent the causes of it.

At the April 9th Antioch City Council meeting, citizens have a chance to tell city leaders how to allocate $14 million in Measure W money. Please show up and ask them to invest in afterschool programs, a Boys and Girls Club and juvenile crime diversion programs. Our kids’ lives depend on it.

Warren Lutz
Antioch


18 COMMENTS

  1. With all due respect to the author, if you can afford to live in a nicer town and you’re living in Antioch (cheaper housing) – good luck.

    I agree with your friends. I never have (and never will) live in East County, but our daughter lives in Discovery Bay. It’s her choice (and her life) but the thought of her anywhere near Pittsburg and Antioch is frightening.

    I call a spade a spade. The truth hurts.

    • He’s talking about what he’s experienced and witnessed living in his community, getting involved and making things better and you’re coming with negativity about somewhere you don’t live. If you don’t live here then why are you following East County and why do you feel so compelled to comment? Find something more productive to do with your time…..or maybe that the problem….you have too much of it.

      • I follow ECT because our daughter lives in East County. It’s my way of seeing what’s going on, and staying out of her business. You stay out of mine. You obviously don’t have kids that are grown.

        There’s nothing positive about Antioch – except cheaper housing. I’m entitled to my opinion.

        If you don’t like my comments – don’t read them. Freedom of speech.

        • You’re absolutely WRONG Nick. Antioch offers some of the best trails, hills, and views in all of the East Bay. It’s a great opportunity for exercise, stress relief, etc and it’s free. No one cares about you or your daughter, as you sound like an typical entitled parent and a coward leaning on the “free speech” trope.

          • I agree with Nick. Antioch is a crime ridden town, and if you can afford to live elsewhere, why subject your kids (and your family) to a high crime town and low performing schools – just so you can get more “bang for your buck” on your home.

            People do it all the time, and then claim that the town isn’t preforming up to “their”standards. They want things their way.

            People live where they want to live and where they can afford to live. But if you move to a town that has high crime and no after school programs – this is something you should research prior to signing on the dotted line.

            Yes – things begin at home. But you can’t change a town just because you moved in.

            Obviously – the gentleman who wrote this letter has friends who agree thought he was crazy too.

            Getting defensive just because you might live in Antioch doesn’t mean it’s a nice town. It’s NOT.

  2. I’m be president of the Delta Youth Soccer League. We offer recreational and competitive soccer opportunities to over 1500 kids ages 4 to 18 in Antioch, Pittsburg, Oakley, and Brentwood. Registrations are starting now. We have over 100 wonderful dedicated coaches who love the game of soccer. Our recreational soccer program runs from middle of July to end of October. Go to http:\\www.deltaoccer.org to learn more about it.

  3. My wife and I moved to Antioch in 1988, raised two children that went to Antioch schools who never got into trouble and are now both married and have successful lives.
    I never had after school programs when I was growing up, but what I did have is caring parents that took interest in my schooling and behavior and taught me right from wrong and I did the same for my children. Unfortunately many of today’s parents don’t seem willing to do this.
    Both my wife and I have worked in the schools here in Antioch. What we see is parents that don’t really care about their children’s education and many don’t even know who their child’s teacher is. They also don’t care when their children misbehave at school and some even tell the office staff to stop calling them when their children’s behavior requires their parents to come pick them up.
    So what we have is not a lack of after school programs, which are nice to have but are not the answer, what we have is a lack of parenting and until these parents start teaching their kids right from wrong, the proper way to behave in a civilized society, and take interest in their children and their education, we will always have this problem, the problem of a lack of parenting.

  4. What extra benefit does the Antioch water park do for local teens? Their Mello Roos dollars are enormous. Where is all that money going ? The park is built. They must be pretty flush with cash unless they are wasting it.

  5. Mellow Roos is paid off and no longer has anything to do with the water park. Many people use the park and love it. Over 50 years here and more than 3 generations. We love Antioch we just had to educate our children outside of AUSD. The district has failed and continues to do so.

    • I was not aware the Mello Roos was paid off. After school events public and private needs to be promoted to the youth through town fliers and school advertisements. You can only show them , you can’t make them. It’s a very tuff situation. Parents or parent are not active and aggressive because of all the leftists laws prohibiting parenting like before.

  6. Where does it say that the kids have to take part in such programs? No one can force them to do it. It’s the parents’ job to straighten out the kid!

  7. Robert is 100% correct. Parenting is a huge problem in Antioch. I can give you examples just on my street but it is the entire city. After school programs have been tried before and failed from lack of interest..

  8. Don’t expect someone else to raise Your children. Why have them if you can’t support and raise them responsible. It’s easy to have kids but hard to be a involved parent. Regardless of where you live think things through. It’s a parents responsibility to teach your child. Own it! If they have issues they got them from their family. Step up parents. Take complete ownership.

  9. Antioch got the best fireworks every July 4h. it is the closest thing to a real war..

  10. Most of the trouble-making kids know no discipline! This is something to be taught starting when they are toddlers, NOT when they are 15 years old! It’s the parent(s) who are failing the kids, not the city, state or country. Maybe that money should be allocated for PARENTING CLASSES before the kid is born!

  11. It’s not Antioch that has failed the kids (as the letter writer states), it’s the PARENTS who failed them.

  12. Stop rewarding pregnancies with increased welfare and section 8 funding. The people that produce kids for more money could care less about their upbringing. Maybe even required birth control for single females and males on public assistance. Something needs to be done. These hoodlums are affecting the quality of life for others.

  13. It’s the parent(s) who are failing the young people. If you chose to have kids, you need to be responsible for their upbringing. If you have to have 3 jobs to make ends meet and your kids go by the wayside, then you should move to a place that you can afford to live in so you don’t have to work 3 jobs.

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