California Wellness Foundation Announces 2009 California Peace Prize Honorees
Unsung Heroes To Receive $25,000 Cash Awards for Violence Prevention Work
Brian King, a former gang member and drug dealer, started a faith-based program in partnership with law enforcement, city leaders, and schools to provide services and support to at-risk youth in southwest Fresno. A refugee from Cambodia, Phalen Lim became an integral leader in an agency that combats gang violence and promotes cultural pride and understanding in Santa Ana. Olis Simmons applied her extensive experience in developing systems and programs that foster community wellness to create a youth leadership development center in East Oakland that prepares low-income youth of color for leadership and successful careers.
On October 28, The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) honored these three community leaders with its 17th annual California Peace Prize at a ceremony in San Francisco. In recognition of their efforts to prevent violence and promote peace, the honorees will each receive a cash award of $25,000.
“The honorees are representative of thousands of unsung heroes who work with youth to prevent violence in communities throughout California,” said Gary L. Yates, TCWF president and CEO. “This year’s honorees also show that perseverance through hardship can help build essential leadership that makes our state healthier and safer.”
As co-founder and chief executive of Fresno Street Saints, Brian King has come a long way from his days as a gang member and drug dealer in Chicago. Fresno Street Saints, a faith-based organization that seeks to restore southwest Fresno as a safe and healthy community, provides services and support to at-risk youth and their families. The organization’s services include gang prevention and intervention programs that offer educational enrichment, youth employment training, grief counseling and family leadership development.
“What we’re doing is taking back these streets and directing resources right to the people, especially to the youth,” said King. “The community leaders and resources must be as visible and as accessible as the gangs are, or the gangs will continue to win.”
Escaping genocide, disease and starvation in Cambodia, Phalen Lim made her new life in Santa Ana, California.Â Lim and her family sought help from The Cambodian Family (TCF), an agency that provides health, employment and youth services to the refugee and immigrant community of Orange County. Originally a client–and then a volunteer–she is now a youth program director for TCF, working primarily with Cambodian and Latino youth.
Â “Youth can identify with people who have lived in the same neighborhood, gone through similar struggles and made it,” said Lim.Â “I am a very strong believer in leading by example.”
Olis Simmons has devoted her career to developing systems and programs that foster community wellness. Simmons helped found Youth UpRising (YU) and serves as its executive director. YU is a youth leadership development center that serves young people (ages 13 to 24) from Alameda County’s lowest-income communities. This public-private partnership offers services in health and wellness, anchored by a school-linked health clinic and integrated mental health services; art and expression, featuring dance, music and film production; and career, pipeline preparation and placement.Â
Â “The best prevention is investing in young people, in their education and sense of possibility,” said Simmons.Â “Be expansive in your notion of prevention.Â It’s not simply preventing a physical disease; it’s preventing the loss of hope.”
The California Wellness Foundation is a private, independent foundation, created in 1992, with a mission to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention.
The Foundation prioritizes eight issues for funding: diversity in the health professions, environmental health, healthy aging, mental health, teenage pregnancy prevention, violence prevention, women’s health, and work and health. It also responds to timely issues and special projects outside the funding priorities.
Since its founding, TCWF has awarded 5,719 grants totaling more than $719 million. It is one of the state’s largest private foundations. Please visit TCWF’s website at www.CalWellness.org for more information, including a newsroom section devoted to the California Peace Prize and the three honorees. High-resolution photos are also available.