Antonio Sosa is an inspirational, caring individual dedicated to providing avenues for youth of the Skagit Valley to gain a healthy start for a healthy future. In 1986, Sosa moved to Sedro Woolley, Washington from Mexico. He discovered a growing population of at-risk youth forming gangs at an alarming rate.
From that discovery point, Sosa drafted his plans to build a cultural bridge between youth and the community. He enrolled in the Human Services Program at Skagit Valley College and began volunteering in the community – translating and interpreting for the police, counseling at-risk youth in local schools and starting a bilingual radio show called “Háblame de Ti” (Tell Me About Yourself) focusing on he consequences of drug and alcohol abuse.
His spirit of service was recognized in 1997 when he won Skagit County’s Volunteer of the Year Award. During that year, with four young men, he created the group, PATADA (Peer Advocator Team Against Drugs and Alcohol) as a community alternative to gangs, violence, and drugs. PATADA, which means, “to kick” is a health promotion/violence prevention/drug and alcohol intervention program for youth. Its main focus is to teach young people how drugs and alcohol affect people’s lives and how, through healthy activities such as breakdancing, they can make positive life choices.
PATADA, now with 31 members ages 6-19, meets weekly for six hours. Sosa engages them in discussion about the consequences of drugs and alcohol. Directing them towards a healthy future, they learn steps, routines and break dance moves. When they perform at local schools, they talk to their peers and younger youth about the benefits of exercise, including stress reduction, positive self-concept and leadership development.
In a primarily rural area where 77% of high school seniors perceive that drugs, gangs and handguns are readily accessible*, PATADA’s performances promote positive images of youth to the general public. Dancing enhances their academic skills by developing concentration, focus, memory and positive mental attitudes. It helps create high self-esteem, a sense of pride and commitment to a group. Being part of a performing group fosters cooperation, instills a community service ethic and builds good citizens. Antonio Sosa has found a way to teach youth about the damage of alcohol and drugs before it is too late.
*1998 Washington State Survey of Adolescent Health Behavior (Skagit County)