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How kids in Del Paso Heights struggle with fatherlessness

Bill Coibion's mentoring program Shoulder to Shoulder aims to change the disillusionment and anger held by many youth in this struggling neighborhood
Bill Coibion

Del Paso Heights, Sacramento, 95838 is a hardscrabble, ethnic neighborhood.

Hanging out is what many do. Statistics are cold.

According to the family services group Shoulder to Shoulder, income for a family of four is about $13,000 a year and 70 percent of the youth in Del Paso Heights are fatherless.

Bill Coibion founded Shoulder to Shoulder in 1996. It's a program that provides a role model for urban youth with no father figure.

"It's part of the culture that's raised here. No one chooses where to be born or who you're born, to," Coibion said.

Coibion is the father figure to some of the kids who don't have one.

Many of the kids have arrived at life's fork in the road as young as 9 years old. They come to Coibion's mentoring program looking for the right way to do things. They learn about respect.

"Respecting yourself first and then respecting all others, meaning your teacher or a young boy or girl on campus or a police officer, fire -- it doesn't matter who it is," Coibion said.

Along Grand Avenue, there are more than leaf piles that end up along the side of the road. Many children of Del Paso Heights come from angry, disillusioned families where crime and dropping out is the norm.

Many of the young boys are acting out of hopelessness, Colbion said.

"I'm not saying this is what happened in these other cases, but if we were to backtrack on some of these cases and do a little research and find out did that young man who got shot and killed, did he grow up fatherless, did the officer grow up fatherless?Today fatherlessness is the number one social problem in America," Coibion said.

The success of Shoulder to Shoulder is realized when each child not only learns respect, but passes it on, and later, perhaps, becomes a mentor themselves.

It's a slow process, one kid at a time. It's changing a culture by having the tools to make the right choice in a situation that could end up in life or death.

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