August 24, 2018
Jaime Garcia, 18, grew up in Little Village, on the south-west side of Chicago and was first introduced to the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention (YSVP) initiative through his older brother, who was a participant of the program. After Jaime lost his older brother to gang violence, Art Guerrero, YSVP’s Pilsen/Little Village site Program Director, reached out and encouraged Jaime to join them. Jaime agreed and became a participant of the Urban Warriors program in 2013. Urban Warriors pairs post 9/11 military veterans with youth in Chicago who have been exposed to violence. Together they discuss and process their experiences with violence and work to develop and share coping skills.
This year, Jaime took part in a Safe Humane and YSVP partnership program where youth who have a hard time opening up to speak about issues in their life learn how to train and socialize dogs that have been written off as unadoptable. Most of the dogs they work with are Court Case dogs, victims of neglect or abuse who have been rescued by police and animal control from their abusers and are associated with criminal court cases against their abusers.
“I learned a lot of things. I learned to be more responsible, more patient, and helpful.” Before, when Jaime first started working with the dogs, he didn’t know there was a right and wrong way to approach them. Now, he said excitedly, “I know how to tell if a dog is going to bite, might react aggressively." One dog, in particular, came to mind when he explained how to prevent getting bit when feeding a treat. "I was working with a white dog, he wasn't aggressive but he used to snap, every time you tried taking food away he would bite. It wasn't his intention- he didn't know. So one of the [volunteers] told me to keep the food behind my finger, and the only way he could get it is using his tongue." Jaime also knows how to get them to sit, roll over, leave an object, stay, go into their crate, and Jaime’s personal favorite, to give paw. The skills he learned through the program help him in his personal life as well. He owns a dog and a cat and is working on training them.
Jaime’s cohort graduated on May 29, 2018. At the ceremony, they showcased the commands and tricks they learned to use on the dogs in front of family, friends, YMCA staff and guests.
Learn more about the Y’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention initiative here.