A nonprofit group is seeking local youth between the ages of 14 and 17 to apply for a summer program that will involve them spending 10 days at the U.S. Marine Corps Camp Pendleton base in Southern California.

Local teens who are interested in gaining more skills on leadership, self-confidence, self-control, teamwork, responsibility, good citizenship, personal discipline and respect for others, their family and country, are encouraged to apply, said Richard "Dick" Taylor, Kern County liaison representation of Devil Pups Inc., a nonprofit organization that works with teens in Western states, such as California, Nevada and Idaho, for the Camp Pendleton encampment.

Taylor noted that the Devil Pups program is not an Marine Corps-sponsored program. He added that the program is not a mini boot camp or a recruitment tool of the Marines, either.

Youth, however, will be learning skills provided by Camp Pendleton Marines and encampment commanders, who are part of the Devil Pups program.

To apply, teens must complete a physician's medical exam, and pass a Devil Pups physical fitness test and interview by Devil Pups staff, among other things.

Teens with medical conditions such as asthma or who are part of the juvenile justice system may not be eligible.

The program annually draws plenty of interest from youth, and competition is fierce, Taylor said.

Eligible applicants will compete in the physical fitness test and interview as part of the selection program for a coveted Devil Pups slot. About 20 local teens will be selected.

The most important factor in the final acceptance process is the applicant's "desire" to succeed and to become a Devil Pup, Taylor said.

Applications are due by April 30, and the physical fitness test is scheduled for May 16.

If a teen is selected, he or she will be spend July 23 through Aug. 1 at Camp Pendleton representing Kern County as a Devil Pups candidate.

For more information, please contact Taylor via email at devilpupsbakersfield@hotmail.com or phone at 661-332-8394.


It's that time of the year again for the Festival Juvenil Primaveral, or Spring Youth Festival, which features talented local and out-of-area ballet folklorico dancers, both youth and adults.

The 29th annual event is presented by Grupo Folklorico Escuelas Unidas, a local Mexican folk dance group, and will take place 6 p.m. April 11 at East Bakersfield High School.

Sylvia Guzman, director and dance instructor of the dance group, has devoted several years to working with local youth and preparing them as folk dancers through the organization.

Escuelas Unidas provides low-cost cultural enrichment for youth in Bakersfield by teaching Mexican culture and history through dance.

A highlight of the April 11 event will be a performance from Grupo Folklorico Decanos de La Danza de Tepic Nayarit of Nayarit, Mexico.

Other performing groups include Ballet Folklorico Mi Tierra de Bakersfield, Grupo Folklorico Corazon de St. Augustine, Ballet Folklorico Mt. Vernon and California State University Bakersfield's Mexica Tiahui.

Guzman added that Escuelas Unidas is still seeking sponsors for the event.

"Over the course of our existence we have been able to sustain our group's needs via self-funding (fundraisers) and donations," Guzman said. "Unfortunately, expenses continue to accumulate as our equipment wears and other related operating costs continue to rise."

Those expenses can total up to about $14,000 to $15,000 a year.

"We are looking for support to assist with this worthwhile cause and help make a difference in the lives of children," Guzman said. "Our program provides students an opportunity to build self-esteem along with cultural pride, knowledge and respect for other cultures.

"Moreover, Escuelas Unidas provides an arts program in Mexican dancing, which can help students improve their academic performance in math because dancing contains patterns through movement and music.

"In the past 29 years, our program has impacted thousands of children."

Aside from sponsorships, attendance to the event can make a difference.

Ticket prices are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Tickets are available at Martin's Meats, 801 21st St., Guzman said.

For more information, contact Sylvia Guzman at 619-4372 or via email at sylviamguzman@sbcglobal.net.

The group's website is gfescuelasunidas.com.

Olivia Garcia is a Californian columnist and editor of Bakersfield Life and BWell magazines. Send her tips at ogarcia@ bakersfield.com. Her work appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are her own.