August 13, 2008
Andrew Munoz, 702.293.8691
Boulder City, Nev. – Twelve teens, all from the Spring Mountain Youth Camp, spent the day with park rangers from the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Rangers spoke about their jobs and demonstrated the different types of equipment they use everyday to keep park visitors safe.
“Things like this show them that law enforcement is on their side,” said Marco Rafalovich a probation officer with the Clark County Department of Juvenile Justice Services. According to Rafalovich these teens were sent to the youth camp for crimes ranging from breaking-and-entering to manslaughter.
This is the eighth year of the program. These visits began when Rafalovich contacted Park Ranger Randy LaVasseur who was then working for the Bureau of Reclamation as a police officer for Hoover Dam. They both wanted to provide at-risk youth with a positive experience with law enforcement.
“A lot of these kids are about to be released. We want them to understand that it’s not about what they have done, but now what they can overcome,” said LaVasseur. He led the group through a tour of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area headquarters where they met National Park Service human resources specialist, John Castaneda.
Growing up in southeast Arizona, Castaneda found himself heading in the wrong direction. Like the teens from Spring Mountain he was making bad decisions. He spoke with the twelve about his experiences, how he got back on track, and finished college.
“There were a lot of informal mentors in my life that slowly nudged me in the right direction,” said Castaneda. “Being able to talk to these kids is a way for me to do the same and give back in a way,” he said.
The day ended with a tour of Hoover Dam. Of the twelve, one is already enrolled in community college and another is set to return to high school in a couple of weeks. The rest will continue to serve out their sentences at Spring Mountain Youth Camp.