Gang outreach program receives state grant

By Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldOctober 16, 2013 

A Tri-City-based gang outreach program received a state grant Wednesday that could help add additional staff and increase service levels.

The $133,000 grant was given to F.I.R.M.E. Outreach in Kennewick, one of three organizations across the state to receive the grant. The others were in Seattle and Tacoma.

The money will allow Jesse Campos, F.I.R.M.E.'s founder, to hire two new outreach workers and possibly add additional programs, he said.

"It is really going to take us to another level of service in the Tri-Cities and help with the level of kids we can service," he said. "This shows the importance of our organization here."

F.I.R.M.E., which stands for Finding, Impacting, Redirecting gangs through Mentorship and Education, has been active in the Tri-Cities for more than two years and serves about 60 youth, Campos said. The program focuses on counseling youth involved in gang activity.

The grant will help F.I.R.M.E. introduce a comprehensive gang model created by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in both counties. The model's focus is to implement anti-gang strategies developed by different agencies in law enforcement, education, criminal justice and others into communities.

"It is about bringing up alternatives to gang life, thus reducing recidivism rates," Campos said.

Campos, the only current full-time staff member for the nonprofit, hopes the grant will allow him to implement some ideas he has like offering a dinner night and parent training programs.

Campos estimates the grant could help his organization reach more than 100 kids in the coming years, he said.

"It is really starting to take off," he said. "This grant will really help propel us so we can do the things we want in the Tri-Cities and impact the amount of kids we want to."

-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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