With the smell of barbecue trailing in the air and the sounds of teenagers playing in a swimming pool, it would be easy to mistake the final day of the Valley Teen Ranch and Keeping Youth Journeying Onwards group homes’ third annual Summer Olympics as any other summer gathering.
But for these boys, ages 14 to 18, whose crimes range from grand theft auto to drug possession and some of whom claim membership in rival gangs from across the Valley, the day was much more than simple.
“It’s about being human,” one 16-year-old boy said. “This Olympics was great for that. It’s a lot healthier for us to be out here and having fun. A lot of the guys are integrating real cool and regardless of where we’re from, what we do, or what we know, we get along perfect. They’re doing something right and they should keep it up.”
The Olympics, which began July 16 and included team-oriented competitions such as soccer, essay writing, poetry, weightlifting, and flag football throughout the week, were designed to help young men locked in the probation system develop social skills and teamwork...