I have been told that Matt Sanchez is presently in Cottage Hospital in critical condition, I wish I could share more. I would like for everyone to please add him to your prayers for as long as you can. Six years ago nobody believed in me except for Matt. People were saying I was this and that and just how as he has helped our youth he was there for me. I wish I could offer more than prayers to Matt and his loved ones which number many but it is in God’s hands now. Every week I write about this and that but change always comes down to an individuals action and Matt has never been afraid to create change that benefits us all in our Community of Santa Barbara. .
The Gang’s All Here @ http://www.montecitojournal.net/archive/13/40/1417/
Matt Sanchez knows a little about gangs; behind the barber’s chair at Montecito Barbers, with scissors in hand, he looks every bit the former high-school football lineman and former U.S. Marine that he is. The tattoos covering his arms reveal something else: that he spent time in prison. “Drug addiction and alcohol addiction led to a prison sentence,” he says matter-of-factly. Matt spent three and a half years behind bars, he admits, “in a half-dozen different facilities, one of which was a maximum security prison.” Even so, he seems to have turned out okay. Matt has been cutting hair alongside his dad, Bob Sanchez, for the past sixteen years, and now counsels others about the dangers of gang life.
That Matt is among those the Santa Barbara City Council consults about what many in the public perceive as Santa Barbara’s “gang problem” does not come as a surprise. And, since gang activity has been in the news lately, it made sense to check in with Matt to get his impression and opinion of what’s going on.
The judge having his hair cut as Matt and I conducted a taped conversation was a model of patience, even though his haircut took at least twice as long as it normally would. Matt promised he could “cut and talk,” but did way more talking than cutting as he opined on the gang problem.
“First of all,” Matt begins, “I’d like to call it ‘youth violence,’ rather than a ‘gang problem,’ and it’s across the board. The kids I work with, in particular, are probably a little bit more organized,” he says. Matt heads up a group called All For One; Youth and Mentoring. “Our goal,” he continues, “is not to get them out of gangs, just to give them options. Let them see the end of the road before they hit the end of the road. Help them make it through a time in their life where their body, their mentality, everything is changing, so they don’t end up dead or locked up for the rest of their lives, or addicted to drugs or alcohol for the things that they did do.”
Matt says one of the ways to do that is to “show them things they’d never seen, for starters,” like snowboarding trips to Tahoe, for example. “Most of the kids had never even seen snow; most of the kids had never been to Tahoe,” he notes.
Some of the things Matt and his group teach kids under their auspices are slightly unorthodox: in addition to explaining how to treat broken bones, sunburn, twisted ankles, and other common ski mountain mishaps, “We add in overdoses, stab wounds, gunshots, things they might see.” Sanchez also bring kids to San Quentin. The All For One Program, Matt stresses, “is totally voluntary.”
Matt’s approach has an additional element, and it is one that has special appeal to someone whose loyalty extends to a gang: ‘I’m not gonna lie for you,’ he says to his young charges, ‘but if you do what I ask you, I will come back to court and tell them that you did everything I asked you to do.’ As a former gang member, his word carries weight; he is respected, he says. He likens his approach as one that appeals to the positive instincts of the youths he sees, rather than the negative, like probation. “Missing school, being out past curfew, things like that, will get them into trouble,” he observes. “I’ll say [to the court], ‘You know what? He’s done the homework; he’s participated in community activities that we have; he’s cleaned the streets and he’s shown up for every meeting.’ “I just try to show them other options,” Matt continues. “If a person grows up in a family where everybody goes to college and they push for education, guess what they’re going to teach this young kid? We just try to show them different things. “Getting the parents involved? Cool. Teaching how to raise kids in this culture when they’ve been taught another way? Cool. I’m all for it. Older guys have to get involved.” Matt then wonders aloud whether the “upsurge” in violence is really an upsurge at all.
“Two kids have died,” he says. “How did they die? Stab wounds, right? So, there have been stab wounds before. These kids are not trained in how to use that weapon. Does that thirteen-year-old know how to kill somebody? You’ve got to look at everything that goes with it.
“The papers, the media, they’re creating fear,” he says. “That’s what they do… I’m not saying you do too, because I haven’t read your article yet, but I know you’ll be fair. Every kid has a chance and you have to give him every opportunity to do that. I don’t think we need more programs.”
Beverly Grant, now on the Carpinteria School Board, is Matt’s former parole officer.
All for One held a “friendraiser” at Julie and Jamie Kelner’s Montecito home Saturday afternoon, September 29; during the 3 pm to 6 pm event, some of the “graduates” of the Youth and Mentoring Program spoke and explained both the program and what they were getting out of it. If you’d like to learn more about All For One – which is a 501(c) (3) – drop by Montecito Barbers behind Vons on any Tuesday through Saturday and ask to speak with Matt, or call 805-896-217
S.B.C.C.C. The place where COMMON SENSE never goes out of style!