Crucian honored for work with children
Published: March 22, 2013
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When Jose "Besse" Gonzalez decided to create Guidance Sports Club, an after-school program for young students on St. Croix, he never anticipated any high accolades or luncheons in his honor.
Today, the St. Croix native will get just that.
Gonzalez, 41, is being honored by the National Association of Social Workers with the Public Citizen of the Year award for the Virgin Islands chapter.
A luncheon celebrating Gonzalez's efforts will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at Palms at Pelican Cove.
Gonzalez founded the Guidance Sports Club in 2008. It is a nonprofit that focuses on mentoring kids ages 6 to 14.
Guidance Sports Club currently has about 35 kids in its program, according to Gonzalez.
Its flagship program is the "Positive Guidance" basketball team, coached by Gonzalez, which regularly competes in leagues on St. Croix. Gonzalez tries to use basketball and other forms of recreation as a way to engage kids and keep their minds occupied on concepts such as practice, teamwork and success.
"We bring kids in through basketball," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez engages youngsters through activities as well, such as bowling, horseback riding, hiking, and trips to the beach. He uses the fun activities to involve kids in different aspects of the community and show them all of the great things that their island has to offer.
"I'm trying to get the kids to enjoy and love life, and to provide a positive atmosphere that these kids will say, 'You know what? I don't want to get in trouble in school,' " Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez also works as a Corrections officer at the V.I. Human Services Department's Youth Rehabilitation Center on St. Croix.
That is where he witnessed firsthand the lack of positive role models in so many of the youth's lives.
"My experience at the Youth Rehab Center pushed me to want to work with kids," he said.
A busy man, Gonzalez also coaches elementary and middle school basketball at Church of God Academy, in addition to his recreation leagues with Positive Guidance.
The children's parents are appreciative of Gonzalez's efforts.
"He goes above and beyond," said Geryl Miller, treasurer of Guidance Sports Club, whose 10-year old son is in the program. "The kids really love him because he's very genuine with what he does. On his days off, he goes to Church of God and sits in classes, making sure kids are doing what they're supposed to do."