Calixto Vasquez is a member of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Carrollton Police Department in Texas. He saw the need for change in the community. Students are bombarded with dangers and temptations today more than ever. It does not matter whether you live in a rural area or the city; youth are challenged to stay on the right path. They are faced with decisions that could affect them for the rest of their lives. Gangs, drugs, alcohol and violence are common themes in schools. The negative forces seemed to be taking over, but he was confident that could be changed.
In 1995, the IMPACT mentoring program was founded in an effort to reduce gang violence, drug activities, keep children in school, reduce crime, get parents involved, and tear down the barriers that existed between the youth in the community and the police department. Vasquez was instrumental in the inception of this program and can take some of the credit for this drastic drop in violence. He exemplifies community policing and personally mentors a group of 30 adolescents. IMPACT stands for Integrity, Motivation, Perseverance, Attitude, Character, and Truth.
IMPACT involves the officers teaching the meaning of integrity and the importance of being a person of integrity. They also share the definition of motivation and explain the importance of being a person of action. Perseverance is also discussed as well as the part it plays in succeeding in life. Attitude is a choice and the teens and mentors discuss the importance of having the right attitude in all affairs and remembering that keeping a positive outlook truly makes a difference. The mentors explain that a person’s character distinguishes him or her form others and how important it is to have good moral character. Truth is most commonly used to correspond with facts or what occurred and the pair also goes over truth as it relates to keeping your word, being dependable and being honest.
Officers act as mentors to teens. IMPACT targets youth who are labeled “at risk” and gives them an opportunity to succeed academically and in life. Participation in the program is voluntary, and the juveniles are given a choice as to whether or not they want to be a part of it. The mentors identify and offer solutions to problems and provide individual attention the children who may not have been fortunate to receive the same in the past. The pairs meet weekly at the school for one-hour sessions. During the meetings the mentors discuss relevant topics with the children like non-violent resolution, peer pressure, accountability to oneself, self-motivation and goal setting. The mentors also strive to build positive relationships and personal convictions about choices that the children make and will continue to make throughout life. Though they meet weekly at school, the mentors also contact their partner during the week to cultivate the relationship.
IMPACT is a partnership between the teen, their parents, the school district, and the police department. Parents are contacted on a monthly basis about their children’s involvement in the program, expectations of their teen and what they can do to help. This program also works with HOPE for Kids mentor volunteers in the Carrollton area. Currently there are eight schools with 160 children participating in the program. In 1995, there were 200 gang related incidents in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch areas. This past year, there were only two.