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Newly Remodeled Pico Youth and Family Center Connects with Silicon Valley, Others, as it Fights to Stay Open

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

March 12, 2015 --The newly remodeled Pico Youth and Family Center is celebrating its 13th anniversary with much fanfare on Saturday, and taking the opportunity to unveil a new alliance with Silicon Beach-based Tiny Rebellion, a high-tech advertising agency that will start offering mentoring, as well as internships and entry-level  jobs to youths at the center.

Pico Youth and Family Center group meeting. Photo courtesy PYFC

Tiny Rebellion and the Santa Monica Rotary Club were responsible for the remodel.  The work required about a month, officials said.

“It’s exciting,” Oscar de la Torre, founder and executive director of Pico Youth and Family Center (PYFC), a non-profit organization at 715 Pico Blvd, said the changes being ushered in. “It’s a total transformation.”

Aside from being painted outside and inside, the center will also feature a colorful new orange and blue logo, an updated state-of- the- art sound room and a break room.

The building that houses the center dates back to the 1970s and was badly in need of updating, de la Torre said.

It’s also offering a new program called “Digital Dream Pathways” to teach marketable skills for careers in the growing Silicon Beach community, de la Torre said.

PYFC is already home to the city’s first public recording studio, and youth involved in the music program there have completed five compilation CDs.

The center’s celebration ceremonies will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, with a ribbon cutting set for 2:30 p.m., officials said.

“We are grateful to the volunteers from the Santa Monica Rotary Club and Tiny Rebellion for giving of their time and money to the youth who call the PYFC a home away from home,” said PYFC Board Chairperson Berenice Onofre.

The partnership with Tiny Rebellion is the first of its kind for the center, but with an estimated 2,200 businesses in Silicon Beach, it’s not likely to be the only one for long, de la Torre said. And it is likely to draw even more youth to the center.

“Those are the jobs of the future,” said de la Torre, who is also a board member for the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District. “Those are the jobs we want for our youth – good jobs where they can stay in the community and pay for their rent. This is going to draw a lot of interest.”

 As it now stands, the PYFC serves about 152 at-risk youth in that neighborhood between the ages of 14 and 24. It draws heavily from Santa Monica High School, Olympic High School and Santa Monica City College.

As exciting as all the changes are for the center, it still is struggling with money troubles.  During the center’s first decade, it routinely received all its funding – about $350,000 – from the city. By 2012, the contribution had dropped to $193,000.

The budget cuts accompanied the City’s recommendation to turn the center into a referral center and redirect many of its clients to other youth-oriented programs.  Rumors, de la Torre said, had been -- and still are -- swirling about the organization’s effectiveness.

“We’re caught in politics,” he said.

He said the organization recently submitted a request to the City of Santa Monica for $190,000 in funding for the coming year.  The city will announce in mid-May whether it recommends PYFC for funding, he said.

So far, the center is making use of a $1.6 million grant from the foundation of the late philanthropist Peggy Bergman, whose endowment gives the center 10 percent of the total amount each year.

This year it is using about $150,000 of that endowment; the rest of its budget will come from fundraising and grants. It’s looking at a budget of about $450,000. The organization has commitments from local businesses that will allow PYFC to provide 60 percent of the funding it needs, de la Torre said.

“We’re hoping that the City of Santa Monica will partner with us with a grant to meet the 40 percent needed,” he said.

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