On Thursday, I had an opportunity to visit with young students solving problems, sharing ideas and diligently working on a science project together with their teachers. The students were doing this during an after-school program, at Politi Elementary School, in the Pico Union neighborhood of Los Angeles. Politi Elementary is one of many elementary schools participating in LA’s BEST, an after school education, enrichment and recreation program serving more than 28,000 children in economically challenged neighborhoods of Los Angeles. I was fortunate to see first hand the positive impact this type of program has on young students during a program tour, led by LA’s BEST Executive Director Carla Sanger.

This tour highlighted the significance of engaging kids at an early age in academic, physical, and cultural activities that keep them off the streets and out of California’s criminal justice system. The LA’s BEST After School program at Politi Elementary School is a shining and innovative example of how young people can thrive in a constructive learning environment instead of turning to drugs, gang activity or other delinquent behaviors. To date, more than 212,000 children have gone through LA’s BEST and many are now lawyers, police officers, educators, artists and small business owners.

Though they also haven’t been spared from the state’s budget cuts, after-school programs keep children occupied during the hours when violent juvenile crime is most likely to occur. Recent statewide and local evaluations of California’s after-school programs found consistently positive results for students enrolled in these programs, including improved student achievement, increased school attendance and improved personal behavior. In fact, studies show that kids in LA’s BEST are 30 % less likely to commit juvenile crime and 20% less likely to drop out of school. With public school funding being decimated statewide and many after-school programs being cut, I believe it is essential to preserve and expand programs like LA’s BEST, in order to keep kids safe, engaged and off the streets.

As Attorney General, expanding educational and after-school programs for young people is a major component of my crime prevention plan. I will work to increase educational and economic opportunities for all Californians, reduce gang activity, strengthen effective rehabilitation programs, and improve community-police relations. By implementing these crime prevention initiatives, we can make California a safer and stronger place for our families and kids. When our children are actively engaged in school-through effective teachers, supportive administrations and afterschool programs-they do not turn to gangs and crime as a means to find a supportive community.

I will also work alongside educators and organizations like LA’s BEST to help young people create a path to success. I will work to improve educational opportunities and expand after-school programs that result in greater productivity and reduced crime in our communities. I will also work to prevent crime through smart, effective policies that address the roots of criminal activity and help keep our communities safe. As the next Attorney General, I will bring an innovative and results-oriented approach to fighting crime and protecting the citizens of California.

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