When Jurupa Valley businessman Flip Webster looks around his Rubidoux neighborhood, he sees graffiti, drug activity, abandoned belongings in the street and other signs of a community struggling for its soul.
When he looks into the future, however, he envisions a city better known for higher-education admissions than for crime and economic obstacles. And he has a plan for making that a reality in the coming 10 years.
“Our goal is to put 56 kids through college a year within seven years,” said Webster, who added he hopes to enroll 300 youths in mentorship programs to ensure Rubidoux students are highly recruited by colleges.
Webster and several fellow organizers, all Rubidoux High School alumni, will introduce the program at 8 a.m. Saturday with a block party at the intersection of Rodeo and Mary Ellen drives. Featuring live music and comedy, plus awards for local leaders, the event will offer community members an opportunity to learn the details of the Edistsew scholarship and mentoring program that Webster sees as the key to “turning the Westside around.”
Edistsew (pronounced eh-dis-teh-SOO) is Westside spelled backwards.
An entrepreneur who works in the fashion and entertainment industries, Webster, 49, is also a longtime Rubidoux resident who said he has seen his neighborhood and others affected by drug use, crime and gang violence, and also by a lack of economic opportunity.
Down the line, he said, the Edistsew plan calls for attracting businesses to Jurupa Valley to employ residents and make the city a destination for visitors.
The first phases of the plan involve a mentoring program for high school students, plus raising scholarship money using such strategies as selling commercial time on a local cable channel that would offer a variety of entertainment options.
Edistsew organizers want to work with area colleges and universities as they recruit incoming students. Webster said he hopes to present the program to the Jurupa Unified School District board next month.
The program would start between the sophomore and junior years of high school, he said, matching students with mentors who would encourage them and make sure they fulfill academic goals for college and university admission. He figures 700 mentors will be needed.
The students, he said, will come from Jurupa high schools, selected from academics, the arts, athletics and a fourth category that would cover students headed to specific trade schools.
Last year, Webster got on Facebook to contact other Rubidoux High graduates from the classes of 1978 through 1983. Webster graduated in 1982.
Block party organizers will present awards to several community leaders: Eugene Perkins, education; Matt Stanford, public safety; bus driver Theaddy Jenkins, who saved a passenger’s life this year; and Carl Dameron of Dameron Communications.
Posthumous citations will be presented in memory of community leaders Leroy Ray and Allen Lee, Webster said.