By Charles David Henry
About 50 people gathered at a banquet marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of SQUIRES. It’s a program that brings at-risk youth in to San Quentin Prison for a close-up look at what their future holds unless they change their behavior.“There is no agenda other than it’s a heartfelt, devoted effort to help at-risk youth make good decisions in their lives and reevaluate the path they are presently on,” chief sponsor Raphaele “Raffie” Casale told the audience of sponsors, volunteers, mentors and community members.Twice a month SQUIRES brings in a group of youth to tour the prison and meet with inmates. Hundreds if not thousands of young people have been part of the program in the past five decades.SQUIRES was founded in 1964 by Death Row inmate Ross Pactor Keller as a way of reaching out to his troubled young son who had become too difficult to handle.The Dec. 6 banquet in the Education Building also included case mangers, program directors of boys and girls clubs, and Rotary Club members.The SQUIRES program has continued since 1964. The popularity and success of the program was the central theme at this year’s annual banquet where Raffie, co-sponsor Romania “Mana” Jaundoo and Chairmen Vaughn Miles, greeted guests to an evening of ceremony, testament and food.
Raffie gave certificates of appreciation that read: “In recognition for outstanding performance, dedication and commitment towards the positive development of At-Risk Youth. In appreciation for offering your time and energy in directing, counseling and guiding youth towards healthy goals and decisions. We acknowledge you for taking the principles and values of SQUIRES within the San Quentin Community and holding yourself to a high standard so as to be a humanitarian and mentor.”
Recipients included inmates Al Borey, James Cavitt, Arnulfo Garcia, Jorge Heredia, Wayne Holt, Ke Lam, Ventrice Laster, Sandy Lockheart, Vaughn Miles, David Monroe, Vinh Nguyen, Miguel Quezada, Alexei Ruiz, Chris Schumacher, David Stephens, Michael Tyler, Shadeed Wallace-Stepter and Tommy Winfrey
Chairman Vaughn Miles, who epitomizes and exemplifies the success and popularity of the SQUIRES’ program, was introduced amid applauds and a standing ovation as he accepted the 2014 Richie Earle Man of the Year Award.
In an interview with Miles, he promised to take up the challenge of expanding the SQUIRES program by designing a website and webpage to attract support on the internet.
SQUIRES’ sponsors and facilitators want to reach a broader group of supporters and organizations whose mission relates to things that affect the development of today’s youth.
Miles said he believes, when possible, parents and adult family members of the youth are encouraged to attend and participate in the workshops. In addition to their own personal experiences, the youth’s greatest learning assets are their family, and the knowledge they have garnered over the years. “We stress effective communication and we encourage parent participation.”
This same sentiment resonated as a number of speakers were called upon to share their experiences with the kids that come to San Quentin Prison.
Larry Levy told the audience how he’s been encouraging law enforcement officials to seek out parents and kids to participate in the SQUIRES program. “Continue to spread the love of SQUIRES. These are a group of amazing men at San Quentin. You exhibit the principles and a work ethic that is needed to reach children today.”
Kevin Porter a youth agency counselor said, “I’m amazed at the impact this program has had on my kids.”
Larenda Brooks-Williams, a case manager, shared a story about a young son who was disrespecting his father in a parking lot. She walked over to the father with a SQUIRES questionnaire and told him to check the program out.
Robert Perez, retired principal in San Jose, “I enjoy being here with you; the work you’ve done with these kids has really changed my perception.”
When speaking to the Men of SQUIRES, Lieutenant Luna told them, “You’ve set high goals, and your potential is unlimited, and continue to do good work.”
Joe “Robbie” Robinson, the recipients of a food certificate from Mania, told SQUIRES mentors to “keep the faith, remain loyal and trust the kids.” He confessed,
that after 25 years, “This is one of the best collections of SQUIRES members I’ve worked with. Also this will be my last year with the program. I’m retiring.”
Ross Pactor Keller’s vision of SQUIRES would not exist today without the dedication and commitment from Raffie and Mana. Moreover, in appreciation of their wholehearted devotion to the program, the men of SQUIRES gave them individual plaques to commemorate their loyalty to the kids.
In her closing remarks, Raffie told the guests and the mentors, “I’m blessed to be a part of SQUIRES. I believe in the SQUIRES Program and I believe in SQUIRES members.”