Mayra, a senior at Lincoln High School, walked to school every day for several years on narrow and broken sidewalks, passing faded crosswalks and bike paths. During the summer of 2014, she decided to do something about it by getting involved in her community to improve the environment around her. While most students look forward to relaxing with no schoolwork during summer vacation, Mayra became one of eight youth from Southeastern San Diego involved in Communities of Excellence in Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Prevention, a community engagement and improvement program better known as CX3. These CX3 youth devoted their summer to improving the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
In order to start improving Lincoln Park, the youth first needed to learn what to look for while assessing their environment. CX3 staff from HHSA Central Region trained these students to identify barriers in their neighborhood environment that hinder access to healthy food and physical activity opportunities. With a better understanding of their situation, Mayra and other CX3 students created a photovoice project to convey these barriers, which included taking pictures of their surrounding environment and creating photo captions that would address their concerns in the community. The students named their work the CX3 Youth Engagement Photovoice Project and shared their findings with community leaders and decision makers to tell the story of Lincoln Park. Some of these opportunities took place at community workshops for the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) San Diego Forward: Regional Plan and Creating More Livable and Walkable Communities event with national walkability expert, Mark Fenton.
The CX3 Youth Engagement Photovoice project caught the attention of a community representative from City of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office, who requested copies of the photos to send to the appropriate offices in city hall. These photos have been useful tools to increase awareness of the barriers to a healthy, safe, and thriving Lincoln Park–such as walkability issues in the neighborhood. Further, the photos have sparked discussion among residents about how to work together to develop future community improvement projects. A year later, multiple improvements have taken place in Lincoln Park to make it a safer, more resilient neighborhood, including increased opportunities for walking and biking to school.
Since their photovoice project and these many resulting improvements, the CX3 youth have shifted their focus toward making their school a healthier place to learn. With support from Lincoln High School’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) coordinator and engineering teacher, the CX3 youth spent the 2014-2015 school year building and launching Lincoln’s first school garden: Lincoln’s Living Lab (L3). The short-term goal is to maintain the school garden and get Garden to Café certified with San Diego Unified School District so that produce from the garden can go into the school’s salad bar. The long-term goal for sustainable success is to integrate the garden into the science curriculum and create a greener campus by introducing composting and recycling rainwater for the garden.
Before (Summer 2014)
Mayra walking on a sidewalk behind Lincoln High School’s campus.
After (Summer 2015)
The same sidewalk after CX3 youth presented their PhotoVoice project.
This program was funded by the California Department of Public Health’s Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch with funding from USDA SNAP-Ed, known in California as CalFresh. These institutions are equal opportunity providers and employers. CalFresh provides assistance to low-income households and can help buy nutritious food for better health. For CalFresh information, call 1-877-847-3663. For important nutrition information, visit www.CaChampionsForChange.net.