In 2004, Juvenile Probation Officer, Luis Morales, gained approval for a unique program to transform the lives of youth passing through the Cochise County Detention School Transition Program.
Luis was raised in New York City and flew all kinds of birds. Since his retirement from the U.S. Army in 2003, Luis has been working with kids. He credited his experience with the birds for having kept him out of trouble, so he knew others could benefit also. He just started racing Homing Pigeons in 2004 and really enjoyed it. His son raced as well and as a result of the discipline required for the raising and racing of Homing Pigeons, his grades improved and he and his dad spent much more quality time together.
Having experienced and witnessed these positive results, Luis proposed a project for the kids at the transition center. Utilizing materials from the American Racing Pigeon Union School Information Packet, Luis examined what other schools initiated. He and Transition Program Manager, Sara McCauley, adapted the information to suit the needs of participating youth and submitted the proposal for approval.
To date, the project has appeared in several newspapers and has been used as an example for briefing numerous education personnel within the court system on transition programming. They have full community support and the kids are thrilled to be in the program.
As a result of their participation, the kids have a much better sense of belonging to the community. It has helped kids that were in jail transition back into society. They were greatly affected by the Share The Blue Skies video that shared the story of Jessie Garza Jr. and Jessie Garza III and the Eagle Alternative School Racing Pigeon Project. This inspired Luis to push to make this effort a success to benefit the kids.
With bird donations from area club members and AU Southeast Zone Director, Freddie Rivera, the program had enough birds in the loft to begin racing September of 2005. The kids were thrilled to have a racing master like Freddie assist them.
When they had their first meeting, 10 kids signed up, with more to come. Their guest speaker was Mr. Mark Rhyner of the Sierra Vista Racing Pigeon Club.
Their project proposal has become a part of the AU School Information Packet to help others understand how they might create a similar project.
The kids have already started their public relations efforts tied to this project. They appeared at the Tucson Youth Expo and various similar events. They are now preparing to "go on the road" with their information to the National Pigeon Association convention in California in January 2006. They are entering show birds and will attend the event to share information about their project at the AU booth. Plans are also in the works for attending the 2006 AU convention in California to address the AU general membership and attend the youth race.
Each of these projects is unique in format. The common thread is the benefit to the kids.