HEBER, Calif. - Imperial Valley Mothers and Men Against Gang violence celebrated on Saturday their annual scholarship event in Heber. The founder said it’s been a hard road getting to this point.
MAG Coalition Founder Yulil Alonso-Garza said they’ve come a long way.
“What I see right now upon ourselves in this room, that’s what I dreamed about 5 years ago,” Alonso-Garza said.
On Saturday, they celebrated their annual sneakers ball event in honor of son Martin Alberto Garza, killed in a gang related attack.
“When we first stated, we only had 30 people present – 25 people present – and most of them were volunteers and awardees,” Alonso-Garza said.
She said giving up was never an option.
“When you don’t have people attend your event you feel like a failure. And I literally broke down when it was time to start. I knew that giving up on that would be giving up on my son and the rest of the children,” Alonso-Garza said.
That was 5 years ago. Today, city officials praise MAG’s work.
El Centro City Council Member Alex Cardenas said, “It’s very unfortunate that they experienced this tragedy, but they’re also an example of how you can overcome tragedy with positive influence in our community, and they’ve done an incredible job in doing that.”
Thanks to their work, January is anti-gang awareness month statewide.
“It hasn’t been an easy road. There’s been a lot of pounding the pavement, meetings, rejections,” Alonso-Garza said.
Tonight, in Heber, the hall filled up with community, local dignitaries, a state official, and her family, giving Alonso-Garza more inspiration.
“I think about my daughter and her children. And I know she may not think about that sometimes when I’m doing this, but I want to make sure my grandchildren are safe,” Alonso-Garza said.