City Heights, known for its diversity, is a dense urban community of 95,000 living in approximately 6.5 square miles within San Diego. Poverty, unemployment, child obesity, asthma, and violence are some key problems this community faces.
Within the complex landscape of need, City Heights has many valuable assets: nonprofit organizations, philanthropies, and residents highly engaged in and dedicated to their community. City Heights leaders and residents have a track record of achievements, including starting New Roots Community Farm, making City Heights Farmer’s Market among the first farmers’ markets nationwide to accept food stamps, and several high-quality affordable housing developments.
City Heights Building Healthy Communities is held by Mid-City Community Advocacy Network (CAN). The mission of Mid-City CAN is to promote a safe, productive, and healthy community through the collaborative efforts of families, youth, schools, religious and cultural organizations, businesses, and public and private agencies. As part of Building Healthy Communities, Mid-City CAN supports several Momentum Teams, or issue-based workgroups: Access To Healthcare, Peace Promotion, Food Justice, Improving Transportation, Restorative Pipeline to Success, and the Youth Council.
It’s no surprise that youth living in poverty experience both a significantly higher risk of academic struggles and higher drop-out rates. However, simply participating in an after-school program drastically changes the odds in favor of these students, leading to a higher rate of academic success.
Youth power gained a national spotlight this year, with political marches and voter drives across the country and in our region, but young advocates have spent years calling for change in San Diego’s City Heights community.
Recent high school graduate Pamela Sareth is off to cosmetology school this fall. The 17-year-old says she’s looking forward to following her love of nails, makeup and hair styling, but a few months ago she might have been on different path after she hit her nephew's father during an argument.
Restorative Justice: The Peace Promotion workgroup aims to establish a Restorative Community Conferencing juvenile justice demonstration project to support youth offender, victim, and community reconciliation that repairs harm to the community and diverts youth from traditional juvenile detention and probation processes.
Healthy School Meals: Run by the Food Justice workgroup, this resident-initiated campaign aims to increase the availability of locally-grown fruits and vegetables in school meals, and to provide for healthy halal menu options that allow students to eat in accordance with their religious beliefs.
Safe Parks and Recreational Opportunities: Youth-led campaigns secured park land and approximately $2 million in funding to build two new skate facilities, and to expand opportunities for Muslim girls to engage in physical activities like swimming. Other community campaigns run by the Youth Council workgroup include increased safety in and utilization of Teralta and Colina Parks.
Youth Transit Passes: The Improving Transportation in City Heights workgroup collaborated to secure support and funding for the no-cost Youth Opportunity Pass, which removes transportation barriers to accessing school, jobs, and other activities, a common problem in the neighborhood with the lowest rates of automobile ownership in the region.
Lupita is among the many successful faces of “FACES for the Future” program. She exclaims,” Participating in FACES allowed me to experience multiple “once in a lifetime” opportunities that a young brown girl from Oakland could have never imagined possible, such as witnessing childbirths, pediatric surgeries and numerous patient-provider interactions. On top of having the unique privilege of stepping foot in clinical settings alongside medical professionals who sought to inspire me, most important is that I’ve been provided with lifelong mentors through the FACES staff and founders who genuinely care for me and believe in my journey.”