As a fundraiser for its new quarters at 715 Pico Boulevard, the Pico Youth and Family Center (PYFC) sponsored a Hope and Unity Awards Banquet at St. Anne’s Church and Shrine on Saturday, June 7. Attendance at the banquet was as diverse as the collection of people honored with awards, and PYFC founder/executive director Oscar de la Torre found just the right theme in “hope and unity.”
Actor Danny Trejo set the tone for the evening in his keynote address, recounting his rise from a life of crime and prison to becoming California state prison boxing champion, getting clean and sober, and pursuing a successful acting career. “There are only two kinds of people in the world,” he told the audience, “those that want to make a difference, and those that are just taking up space.” He concluded, “Every single thing good that has happened to me has been the result of helping someone else.”
The program featured alternating performances and testimonies by PYFC youth and the presentation of Hope and Unity Awards to seven recipients. Jasmine Mier and Jasmine Lozano read an original and moving poem about Eddie Lopez, and Reuben Pacheco spoke of the journey of his experiences at PYFC. Kenny Conway sang, and Angela Vargas testified about her progress through five years at PYFC. All of them evidenced the positive impact that the Center has had on the Santa Monica community.
Santa Monica City Councilmember Kevin McKeown and Police Chief Timothy Jackman received Hope and Unity Awards, with Jackman saying that he was honored that the first award he has been given in his 18 months in Santa Monica comes from the Pico Youth and Family Center. Awards were also presented to 32-year Samohi teaching veteran Carmen Paul, third generation Santa Monican and first African American female Samohi student body president Shirley Compton Sugars, and the first and only African American to receive a Ph.D. in history from U.S.C., Christopher Jimenez y West, who lectures at Santa Monica College. Also honored were community leader Ana Gioconda Jara and Sanford Berlin, a PYFC board member who passed away in March of this year.
Although PYFC was forced to move from the location it had occupied since its opening in 2002 as the landlord made other commitments for the space, de la Torre explained that the new space is larger and is located virtually across the street from Santa Monica High School, so the relocation is really an expansion and improvement.
The evening was capped by the lively presentation of the Unity Song by PYFC hip-hop program consultant Spontaneous and Samohi senior Julian (“Su-real”) Ayala.