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Mid-City CAN Blog

Youth Council Honored By Planning Group

From left: Terry Stanley, Angeli Hernandez, Lesli Renteria, Erick Hernandez attend the APA awards in Balboa Park May 7, 2015
From left: Terry Stanley, Angeli Hernandez, Leslie Renteria, Erick Hernandez were honored at the American Planning Association awards in Balboa Park May 7.

A group of young City Heights residents were honored for their efforts to bring two skateparks to City Heights, including a $1.75 million park scheduled to break ground later this year.

They were unique at The American Planning Association, California Chapter, San Diego Annual Awards. The event featured more than a hundred audience members, many of them mid-career planners and architects. The Mid-City CAN Youth Council members are mostly high school age and younger and won the award for Grassroots Initiative at the May 7 honors in Balboa Park.

“It’s something big, knowing that our work is being recognized,” said Erick Hernandez, a City Heights resident and sophomore at Hoover.

That work included about four years of advocacy in City Heights, an area 100-acres short of park space.

“At first, … I was angry,” he said, when he thought about the things City Heights needs, like safe places to exercise.

But his involvement in the Mid-City CAN Youth Council focused that energy in a positive direction, he said.

“I found out about Mid-City CAN, and I found out all the things I can do with my voice,” he said.

Nick Ferracone has a unique perspective on the group’s work. He was a member of Mid-City Skatepark Advocacy Group, which worked with the Mid-City CAN Youth Council during its campaign for park space. He is now on the APA board, but was not a member of the awards jury.

Ferracone was impressed by the group’s positive energy and commitment.

“To their credit they never complained to me once,” he said.

The process wasn’t easy – or quick.

“A number of young people attended a lot of meetings,” he said. “A select few, who were most involved, attended more meetings than most adults in San Diego, more public meetings, more political meetings than most adults in San Diego will ever attend in their lives.”

Being part of the process also has made changes in the young people’s lives.

“Young people learn to believe that they can be a part of their own outcomes,” he said.

The Mid-City CAN Youth Council’s commitment and unwillingness to give up was also recognized by City Councilmember Todd Gloria.

“Showing up at meetings is not unique,” he said. “Their persistence is.”

Rudy Vargas, council representative in City Councilmember Marti Emerald’s office, said the Mid-City CAN Youth Council’s ability to work with other community members impressed him.

“Issues that the community really were concerned about, the youth were able to address through a health impact assessment [and] other case studies,” he said.

Leslie Renteria, a 17-year-old Hoover High School student and City Heights resident, said she was inspired to major in urban studies and planning in college, because of her experience with the skatepark campaign.

Her goal is to “keep on going with the change we want to see,” she said. “Although we are young, we are able to make change.”

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