“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and
should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Five youth from Communities of Excellence in Nutrition, Physical
Activity and Obesity Prevention (CX3) in North County Regions
were among a group of youth and community members that took part in
the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on January 20, 2014,
helping clean up the Escondido Creek Trail. George Shunk, Rodrigo
Polanco, Jennifer Perez, Carolina Flores, and Elmer Barrera are all
members of CX3, a youth-led program that works to make their community
healthier and safer and promotes physical activity.
The youth involved each come to CX3 with a different background and interests, but they are all unified under the common goal of building community.
Shunk, age 17, loves to run and loves cars. He joined CX3 because he wanted to make a difference in the community.
“I participate to spend time with other youth - people that share the same passion to improve their community,” said Shunk. “We can all do something together.”
Polanco, also age 17, likes to make people happy through his service. He originally joined CX3 because he needed community service hours for a class. His passion for the program has since grown to become more personal.
“I began to see how 30 minutes to an hour a day of service to the community makes a difference,” says Polanco.
Perez, age 13, likes to draw. She joined CX3 to get community service hours and to add it to her future college applications so she can get into a good college.
“I like CX3 a lot,” says Perez. “I want to keep doing this program because it’s a lot of fun and we can help keep our community safe and clean.”
As these youth came together to honor their community in cleaning up the Escondido Creek Trail, they shared perspectives about what the clean-up event meant to each of them.
“This event meant that if everybody gets together and participates in a whole group, we can all make a huge change,” said Shunk. “After everybody got together, it was amazing to see how many people were there – it was kind of overflowing. A friend that I invited brought his mom, his brothers, and sisters. We had adults, kids, little kids. It was really cool!”
Polanco and Perez both made the connection between their day of service and the greater impact on the health and safety of residents in their community.
“If we come together and try to make a change and offer our time, for 2-3 hours just to clean up trash on the side of the creek , it will help the neighborhood and rest of the community to use that path, to use that creek,” expressed Polanco.
“With all of us going out and cleaning things up to make it look better, we can have more people go outside and walk, which would also help prevent crime,” Perez chimed in. “If you have more people walking around, you won’t have as much crime.”
The youth recognize the importance of taking their service beyond themselves and giving back to benefit their community as a whole. They want their community to be one that is healthy, safe, and thriving.
“A clean environment will help the whole city continue to work towards a healthy community and thrive,” said Polanco.
Following the completion of their day of service, the youth shared tips for community members on how to keep the Escondido Creek Trail clean:
Going forward, the youth involved in the CX3 project are working on additional programs to encourage the Escondido community to get outside. The group is partnering with Mission Middle School’s garden club to develop a learning garden where youth will grow and cultivate edible plants while building a stronger connection to healthy foods. CX3 participants are also planning to create a mural along the wall behind Hayashi Sushi on the creek trail. This wall is victim to graffiti and is the site of other illegal activities as well. Beautification projects foster a sense of community ownership and pride and help to deter crime.
The CX3 project is a partnership between the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency and Escondido Education COMPACT, a recognized Live Well San Diego partner.