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Deputy honored for gang prevention

• Timothy Ferrone awarded by sheriff

Posted: May 15, 2008 1:44 a.m.
Updated: July 16, 2008 5:03 a.m.
Deputy Timothy Ferrone receives his award as "VIDA Deputy of the Year" in April. Deputy Timothy Ferrone receives his award as "VIDA Deputy of the Year" in April.
Deputy Timothy Ferrone receives his award as "VIDA Deputy of the Year" in April.

For about four months, a handful of high school-aged youths - identified as "at-risk" - participate in a rigorous program designed to assist them in redirecting negative behavior into positive alternatives.

A joint effort between the city of Santa Clarita and the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station, the Vital Intervention and Directional Alternatives program, or VIDA, has been essential in guiding wayward youth in the local community.

Aiming to prevent the exploration of gang affiliation or drug use, VIDA provides "at-risk" youth between the ages of 12 and 17 with counseling and guidance in a positive atmosphere. These "at-risk" youth, who are often involved in gangs or with drugs, are often referred to the program by juvenile courts or from parents who petition the court seeking VIDA's assistance.

One deputy, VIDA Deputy Timothy Ferrone, has committed himself to ensure that VIDA effectively serves those youth who need it the most.

On April 25, Ferrone was honored by Sheriff Lee Baca at the county Salute to Youth dinner as "VIDA Deputy of the Year." Since its inception in 2002, Ferrone has been instrumental to the program's success in the Santa Clarita Valley.

While the program is offered countywide, Ferrone's class has served as a model for other VIDA programs in the county.

His classes have the lowest dropout rates in the county.

Approximately 60 percent of those who sign up for the program in the Santa Clarita Valley actually graduate from VIDA, compared to an average of 40 percent graduation rate at other programs in the county.

"I enjoy working with the kids," said Ferrone, who has been with the Sheriff's Dept. for more than 18 years. "We push these kids to the ultimate physical limit."

During the 16-week program, Ferrone partners with approximately 30 "at-risk" youth, attempting to redirect the participant's negative habits into positive, socially acceptable behavior. Instead of coaching the participants in an authoritative manner, Ferrone works with the youth to build self-esteem through a variety of team-building exercises.

"It's not a ‘do as I say' program," Ferrone said. "Oftentimes, that's the reason why they are here to begin with. We actually participate in the program as a team. When the kids are out there doing something, I'm out there doing it with them."

An example of the teamwork mentality is a 15-mile hike from Saugus to Sand Canyon. The hike, which includes a search and rescue session at 2 a.m., begins on a Friday night, and is completed the next morning. When the hike is complete, everyone is rewarded with a "Warrior's Breakfast," usually prepared by several of the youth's parents or guardians.

"A lot of these kids don't think they can do it, but they are very proud when they do," Ferrone said. "We push them to have a ‘don't quit' attitude."

Ferrone is not alone. He also has two Marine Corps drill instructors volunteering their time. each week, while several deputies also make valuable contributions.

"I could not do this without my staff," Ferrone said.

While he has a solid staff, VIDA is not fail-proof. On average, approximately 40 percent of participants drop out at some point in the 16-week program. Ferrone said that there are always a few parents or teenagers who do not even make it out to the first meeting.

"We're not 100 percent," he said. "If we were perfect, then I would have no reason to be a deputy. It's not a magic pill; people have to work at it."

VIDA is still working to some degree. Several VIDA graduates went on to pursue educations and became productive members of society.

A few volunteers that worked at Ferrone's side have themselves become Sheriff's deputies.

Ferrone has made every effort to make VIDA as positive and proactive as possible.

"We inspire each other," he said.

Courtesy photo



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