Yuri Gomez and her Lompoc Youth Connections colleagues are 7th nominee for Valley of Flowers Peace Prize

Yuri Gomez and her Lompoc Youth Connections colleagues are 7th nominee for Valley of Flowers Peace Prize

From the Get to know all ten nominees for the Lompoc Valley of Flowers Peace Prize series

Yuri Gomez and her classmates, known collectively as Lompoc Youth Connections, are the seventh nominee for the 2019 Valley of the Flowers Peace Prize.

Gomez and her colleagues were spending their Saturdays in Ventura taking classes for their master's degrees in social work. All five of them worked in Lompoc for different nonprofit agencies and they had seen a lot — too much. A graduation project loomed.

"You know what, [the project] is not just for school," the friends said they began to think. "It has to be sustainable. It has to be a community movement, and we want this movement to be infectious."

So the final report morphed into a blueprint for action that Gomez remembers well.

"As human beings, we all need social connections to thrive," she said. "If we can connect young people to people who care, they won't be lonely and fall into the wrong hands."

The movement would be led by the youth themselves.

"These kids have the energy and the hope," Gomez said. "They just don‘t have the channels to guide them."

Gomez and her group knew of opportunities, so it became LYC's plan to link youth to them.

"From our work we knew what was missing, so we developed a schedule for the spring," she said.

In April 2019, LYC teamed with In His Hands Ministries, Lompoc food trucks, and nonprofit agencies such as Goodwill Workforce Services and Casa Pacifica to support a vigil for Lompoc youth who died due to violence or just too soon. At the Spring Arts Festival, LYC offered free carnival games, prizes, and community resources. In May, LYC, Goodwill and In His Hands Ministries joined forces to sponsor an ice cream social with games and prizes, along with mental health awareness exercises and resources.

Suddenly, Lompoc Youth Connections seemed to be everywhere.

Yuri Gomez's Peace Prize nomination was preceded by those of immigration counselor Guadalupe Perez; restaurant owner Jose TrejoYasmin Dawson, who spurred a Sept. 20 community march and vigil; AAUW coordinator Pam Buchanan; 8-year-old philanthropist Boss Brockett; and pastor Eric De La Cruz.

The annual Peace Prize ceremony is scheduled for 3 p.m. Jan. 26, 2020, at the Valley of the Flowers United Church of Christ, 3346 Constellation Road.


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