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Mid-City CAN Blog

City Heights youth talk to state lawmakers

Armand Binombe, 17; Leslie Renteria, 16; Roberto Torres, 17
Sitting in a classroom with a table so uneven that books had to be used to prop it up.
Having to ride a skateboard all the way from City Heights to get a glimpse of the beach.
Making a choice between participating in afterschool activities and feeling unsafe on the streets.
Twelve Mid-City CAN Youth Council members traveled to Sacramento at the beginning of August to share experiences like these – as well as their hopes and dreams -- with legislators.
The Mid-City CAN group met with State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D- 80th), Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-79th) and a representative of State Senator Marty Block (D-39th).
Alfredo Mendez, 18, a recent graduate of Hoover High School said, "We came here to Sacramento, our capitol of California, to find out what our legislators are doing and to meet up with a bunch of other youth from different cities."
The young people also made the trip to attend the hearing of the state Assembly's Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color with around 150 other young people on Aug. 8 at the California State Capitol. Most of the young people were from Building Healthy Communities sites throughout California. Building Healthy Communities is The California Endowment's 10-year, $1 billion initiative to change the way that health happens in 14 locations in the state. The young City Heights residents talked with San Diego lawmakers in their offices the day before the hearing about the need for more recreational space, more job opportunities and improved transportation in their neighborhoods.

"The bus pass ... was great," Assemblywoman Gonzalez said, referring to the no-cost youth bus passes that the Mid-City CAN Youth Council and the Mid-City CAN Improving Transportation in City Heights Momentum Team advocated for. The passes will go to 1,000 students at Crawford, Hoover, Lincoln and San Diego high schools this school year.
"I will continue to fight for that if there is anything we can do at a state level," she said.
The lawmaker also talked to the group about the future.
"I just got elected so we haven't done as much in City Heights as we need to do," Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. "I would like you to get together and tell me what type of bills should be introduced."
Assemblywoman Weber also encouraged the group to share ideas and talked about how the Local Control Funding Formula in California would bring more money to City Heights schools.
She urged the young people to hold San Diego Unified School District accountable and "make sure that money those children have generated is going to those schools."

For the City Heights group, finding out how relatable their representatives are and sharing their stories were highlights of the trip.
"It was really inspiring to see all of these officials who really believe in us," said Armand Binombe, 17, a City Heights resident who attends San Diego High. "It is one thing to tell young people 'You can do it,' but it is another thing to take them all to Sacramento and show them how it is really done."
For Roberto Torres, 17, it was all about seeing what was possible.
"The fact that something as powerful as the system can be changed by people like us, it was big for me," he said.
Despite the Committee's Boys and Men of Color focus, four young women from City Heights also went on the trip.
"We are the sisters, the mothers," Angeli Hernandez, 20, said. "Whatever happens to the guys -- like if they get locked up, if they drop out of school -- it affects us."
Besides sharing her story, Hernandez said there was plenty she could take back.
"Now that I've visited our legislature, I know that we can ask more of our City Council members," Hernandez said. "Now I know that they have the power to give us what we want."
Part of that power is showing lawmakers that young people care and are committed, said Jose "Robot" Hernandez, 19.
"We need to approach more youth and get them involved," he said.
After the legislative visits, seven of the male Mid-City CAN Youth Council members went to The California Endowment's Boys and Men of Color weeklong leadership camp from Aug. 11-17 in Portola in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Abdul Rahman Ibn Asadullah, 14, a student at Crawford High School is one of that group.
Boys and Men of Color camp "is trying to take us out of that mindset where [people] look at us and think something [bad] automatically," he said.
Binombe talked about what the camp meant to him, before attending it for the second year in a row.
"It showed me that there are people out there who care about us," Binombe said. "I became more involved. I grew up as a leader."


Brett Lomaseng, 16; Angeli Hernandez, 20; Erick Hernandez, 13



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