Hip Hop Car Wash Keeps Kids On The Right Road
Jefferson Award Winner: Veronica Pope
PITTSBURG (CBS 5) ?
To the beat of hip hop music, teenagers wipe, polish, and vacuum automobiles. It's the "Hip Hop Car Wash," where teens are transforming cars, and their lives.
Founder Veronica Pope explains, "I wanted to empower them and show them that they have a right to be safe, strong and free -- free of not being caught up in the hang-ups that you've been poorly labeled with, free to not have to believe in those labels, and make those poor choices."
Veronica started People Who Care, the non-profit that runs the weekend car wash for teens required to work off community service hours. It's a second chance she says, for those society often leaves behind.
"Hands-on learning, that's the best way these students survive," Veronica says. "Especially the kids who are falling through the cracks."
Teenagers like Tyrell Burks are referred to Veronica's program after sentencing for petty crimes. Tyrell was prosecuted for theft, but with Veronica's encouragement, he's now focused on finishing high school.
"I never had a real job before," he says. "I think she has made a really big difference in my life. If she wouldn't have came in my life, I probably would have been doing the same things I was doing before and I'm glad she came."
Hip Hop Car Wash is a green venture. Instead of wasting water, the kids use environmentally friendly cleaners to wipe down each car. Plus, solar panels power the vacuums.
And when they aren't using their hands, they are planning their futures. Inside the People Who Care office, teens learn job skills, develop business plans, and learn to embrace their own unique talents.
Veronica, a counselor for at-risk children, used her retirement money to start the after-school program. Office space is now donated by the City of Pittsburg. Grants and donations pay three staff members, a family therapist, and stipends for kids who choose to work beyond their community service requirements.
Pittsburg Vice Mayor Michael Kee says Veronica's dream is giving kids a positive alternative.
"She started with just an idea and has developed what we have here today and I'm sure it'll continue to grow," he says. :And it's just been through her own persistence. She does wonders and I think all the kids love her."
So for giving teens the tools to stay on the road to success, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Veronica Pope.
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