Former Antioch police Chief Jim Hyde has a speaking engagement this week. He's on the same program as former U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Martin Lees.
They each will be addressing an expected 250 attendees from around the world at the inaugural conference of the University for Peace in The Hague, The Netherlands, which is a long way from East Contra Costa.
Hyde's unlikely appearance at this event, arranged under the auspices of the United Nations, owes to the success of a project he undertook five years ago with Antioch resident and community activist Iris Archuleta: the Youth Intervention Network.
They hit upon the idea in 2007, after watching with dismay the juvenile delinquency that was tearing apart Antioch neighborhoods.
They began by identifying the common denominators that most often defined problem behavior (truancy and poor grades), formulated a behavior modification program most likely to produce results (family involvement) and recruited volunteers who were trained to engage willing participants.
Archuleta vividly remembers their pilot case.
"The very first kid had had straight F's for two years," she said. "He was in a gang and had been arrested a couple of times. His mother had an emotional breakdown, she was so worried about him.
"After going through the YIN process, he not only graduated from high school with a 3.2 GPA, he became the Antioch Chamber of Commerce's Youth of the Year. He was
In the years since the program launched on a shoestring budget -- Hyde, Archuleta and her husband, Keith, covered the earliest expenses -- benefactors have grown to include more than two dozen foundations and businesses, enabling the program to broaden its dreams. The community collaborative now also operates as a ¿501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.
More than 50 families and 90 youth have completed the program -- 40 new families applied this year -- which begins with two volunteers meeting with participants and identifying areas of conflict and solutions. When family members sign a contract to implement the needed action, an educational advocate is assigned to the case until the youth graduates from high school.
Archuleta reports that among participating families, there has been a 92 percent reduction in police calls, 83 percent reduction in truancy and an improvement in student GPAs by an average of two grade points.
Most encouraging, she said, is the way Antioch has embraced the program. More than 300 adult volunteers have undergone at least 40 hours of training. More recently, youth leaders have been added to the team.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of Antioch," she said. "In the beginning, I remember talking to a person on the phone who didn't know my ethnicity (African-American) using the 'N' word to talk about our kids. That very person who did that has been one of our most effective advocates for young men of color. I've seen people change their hearts and their minds."
Listeners will hear stories like that from Hyde this week. They'll hear that the right plan with the right effort can make a difference.
They'll hear at The Hague that they need to be more like Antioch.