Last Updated on November 5, 2009 by Paulette Brown-Hinds
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) will honor 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.”
Brian King – 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.”
Phalen Lim – Escaping genocide, disease and starvation in Cambodia, Phalen Lim made her new life in Santa Ana, California.
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.
“Youth can identify with people who have lived in the same neighborhood, gone through similar struggles and made it,” said Lim.
“I am a very strong believer in leading by example.”