A visit to Golden Valley High School’s PAWS Center Wednesday brought state Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, memories of how a childhood trip to the state Capitol paved the way to his career, inspiring him to possibly take local students for a Sacramento tour.
“I made all-stars for baseball and it was the same time for family vacation (in Oregon and Sacramento),” said Wilk. “I remember a tour of the Capitol and we’re sitting in the balcony of the Senate and I’m going, ‘That’s what I wanna do,’ at 13.”
The senator, in the past, has teamed up young girls with women in Sacramento, but showed interested in doing the same with young men “to provide them exposure to the greater world” by inviting some to Sacramento, he said.
Wilk toured the various departments that make up the school’s PAWS Center, which helps campus students, parents and staff by encouraging student success, family health and wellness and parenting support resources.
The center opened about seven years ago but really kicked off, as Principal Sal Frias envisioned, three years ago. Today, school staff serves about 75 to 100 students daily and more than 4,800 visits from kids and their families since its start, according to resource coordinator April Rego.
The PAWS Annex room offers students a variety of basic items they may need, ranging from school supplies to clothes and toiletries. The center also offers workshops for students and families in substance abuse, healthy relationships and improving one’s health.
“You can’t come to school and learn unless you’re in a good place,” said Frias. “This place is about offering that and building good community members, growing good human beings.”
Frias shared with Wilk that the PAWS Center might relocate to a larger building as the visits from students in need of services offered is increasing.
“I think there’s a big misconception about Santa Clarita, even among people in Santa Clarita, that we’re a middle-class, upper-middle-class community and the fact of the matter is, that’s not true,” said Wilk. “We have the same challenges the rest of society does. If we don’t work together, we’re going to leave a generation behind because they don’t have the proper mentoring. This (PAWS Center) is really encouraging that this is happening and I hope that it does spread district-wide.”
Other Santa Clarita Valley high schools have opened similar centers or are considering opening their own versions, according to staff member Cindy Takamoto.