Organization helps troubled teens continue education by giving them books

Books to Incarcerated Youth Project has donated more than 5,000 books

By Bill Barajas - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - An organization wants to help incarcerated and troubled teens across the state of Texas continue their education.

Dieter Cantu's nonprofit organization started the Cantu's Books to Incarcerated Youth Project initiative and has donated more than 5,000 books to trouble teens in halfway houses and high-max juvenile facilities.

"My idea is to reduce the recidivism rate by education, providing books, giving them a plan," Cantu said.

Cantu's first stop was the Ayers Halfway House. It's home to 24 teens between the ages of 14 and 19.

"I needed help. I needed guidance. I needed somebody to show me how to do better, not just tell me how to do better," Cantu said.

Cantu connects with the teens through his past. He was also arrested as a young man and was sentenced to 10 years for aggravated robbery. He spent more than three years behind bars.

"We speak the same language. They really appreciate it. They have the tough faces and things like that, the solid demeanor, but once I really speak to them, they loosen up," Cantu said.

Julie Wilson, Ayers Halfway House superintendent, said the initiative provides the troubled teens with an opportunity some have never known.

"I think many of us could have been these kids if we hadn't had some of the traditional structure that traditional families may have had,” she said. “Sometimes, kids just make mistakes, but they are still really good kids. In their hearts of hearts, they want to change.”

Anyone who would like to help Cantu with book donations can donate any of the following types of books:

  • Language books

  • ESL-English as a second language

  • Trade skills (welding, plumbing, HVAC, etc.)

  • Test prep books (GED, SAT)

  • Law books

  • African American studies

  • Latino studies

  • Psychology and self-help

  • Books on social movements and autobiographies

  • Books about running or starting a business.

  • Dictionaries

  • Encyclopedias

  • Thesauruses

  • Instructional art and tattoo art

  • Career Choice Books

  • Academic Journals

For more information on how to donate, visit the Books to Incarcerated Youth Project's website by clicking here.

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