A group of Pueblo men is banding together to make a difference in the community, by becoming its Pillars.
The Pillars is just five men right now, but they hope to continue to grow. They got together during this year's election cycle when three of them were running for city council, and they are using their variety of backgrounds to come up with real solutions to Pueblo's gang problem and the education gap.
The group includes Kenneth O'Neal and Joe Latino who both have a background in education, Steve Pineda who has a long history with youth sports, former city councilman Ted Lopez and east side activist Floyd Jaramillo.
They hope to become mentors to Pueblo's youth, coaching them on how to get a job and show them the positive opportunities Pueblo has to offer. "Too many of our younger kids are being labeled as just deadbeats, and it's not necessarily true," says Pineda. "They need some guidance."
Part of their plan is encouraging kids to stay in school. They say many of Pueblo's young people start college, then quit when it gets hard. If they do graduate, they have never learned the best ways to fill out job applications or build a resume.
The group is not afraid of addressing young gang members either. Latino says, "We want to make sure the young people involved with gangs have an opportunity to do the right things in the community, to be an asset to the community."
The Pillars want to help PEDCO attract more jobs for the capable workers as well, and partner with local businesses for resources. "We don't have titles," Pineda says. "We don't want them to be afraid to come speak to us. If someone is having an issue and they just don't know how to deal with it, if we can't guide them the way we'll give them someone that can."
They say parents are going to have to play a role, too, that it is going to take the involvement of everyone in Pueblo to truly make a difference. "If five guys become 500 guys, 500 gals, 500 young people, then we're moving where we need to move, so it's bringing the city together," says Latino. "That's what this is all about."
The Pillars' first event is an anti-gang march Saturday, Dec. 19 in Bessemer. It starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Steelworkers Union and they will walk to Bessemer Park.
To get involved with The Pillars, email Joe Latino at firstname.lastname@example.org.