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ROP grad speaks at conference

Staff reports

On Sunday, March 9, Reno began hosting the 24th annual National Conference on Juvenile Justice. The conference is attended by over 2,000 judges and leaders in the juvenile justice field and ends today.

Rite of Passage, a youth training center based in Minden, is a major participant in the event with a keynote speaker and a performance in the closing ceremonies. Established 13 years ago, Rite of Passage has become a nationally known treatment program and has helped dover 3,000 teen-age boys improve their lives.

today, Rite of Passage graduate Jeremy Estrada will discuss exactly how Rite of Passage helped improve his life. After graduating from Rite of Passage, Estrada entered community college where he graduated with a 3.8 GPA and was student body president. He is now attending Pepperdine University and hopes to become a doctor. Estrada has become an advocate of programs like Rite of Passage, and is sharing his “success story” at the conference.

Estrada is also currently featured in a public service video raising awareness for alternative youth programs. His PSA has become a focal piece in four major California television markets including Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco.

The video was produced by the California Wellness Foundation, which features Estrada’s story in a brochure for a videoconference on preventing youth violence set for April.

In the brochure, Estrada explains his background: his mother was on drugs and his father disappeared; he dropped out of school and joined a gang. After being sent to ROP’s training center by a judge, Estrada says he learned right from wrong and how to study. He graduated from high school and community college and earned a college scholarship.

“Too many kids like me end up in jail because we don’t invest in prevention programs that work,” he says. “that doesn’t make any sense. Believe me, I’m a new man. I might still cut you open one day. But now, it will be to take out your appendix.”

Estrada’s speech is today at 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. at the Nugget in Sparks.