The Kiwanis Club of La Cañada, in keeping with its focus on youth, donated $2,000 to the L.A. Sheriff’s Dept. STAR – Success Through Awareness and Resistance – program. The Sheriff’s STAR program was created in 1985 based on the belief that crime prevention programs that focused on youth were key to developing safer communities. The program’s objective is to increase community safety by fostering self-esteem and a sense of purpose, assisting youth to find value in themselves, to feel a sense of direction, and define whom they are.
Sgt. Allan Lamonte, a 25-year veteran of the LASD, accepted the club’s check at the weekly Kiwanis Noon Club meeting held at Descanso Gardens. Lamonte worked as a deputy in the jails and on patrol out of the Crescenta Valley Station. In the 1990s, he transferred to the STAR Unit where he taught drug and life skill lessons to the students in the Lennox Unified School District.
In 1999, he was promoted to sergeant, working the jails and patrol before returning to the STAR program in 2007. Lamonte, passionate about the program, supervises the deputies who teach the lessons in schools – lessons he taught years ago.
The sergeant spoke to more than 60 members of the club and members of the AM Club. He said that hearing stories about kids in gangs motivated him to “do something” to deter young students from joining gangs.
“Law enforcement usually waits for something to go wrong. What I am trying to do is to head kids off while they are in the fourth grade by teaching them to be aware of the risks they face by joining a gang,” he said. “When you see school violence, every kid is at risk as every school has things happening with kids using drugs and marijuana. We teach kids how to avoid these gateway drugs.” He identified these gateway drugs as marijuana, alcohol, and cigarettes.
Lamonte added that he discovered that kids early on made decisions about the direction in life they would take, and he decided that starting to teach them about risks in the sixth grade might be too late.
Discussing school violence, he spoke of how the Sheriff’s Dept. assigns patrol cars outside schools as a deterrent to violence and how his deputies spend time in the schools, not only teaching classes, but also bonding with the students so that they trust the deputies and feel free to talk to them.
“We want the kids to be comfortable with deputies,” said Lamonte. Asked what makes kids say no to drugs and alcohol, Lamonte said that it is association with positive influences.
“Kids need to learn the difference between associating with other kids who are a bad influence, and association with kids who provide a positive influence,” he replied.