News // May 29, 2014

Local Leaders Recognized for Making Positive Changes in their Communities

Guadalupe Flores, 2013 Resident Leadership Academy (RLA) graduate and Linda Vista resident for over 26 years, was elected to the Linda Vista Community Planning Group Board on March 24, 2014.  Five of her fellow RLA participants stood by to show their support of the board candidate.

“I am so proud of Lupita [Flores] and her drive to succeed and truly make a difference in her community,” said Linda Vista RLA Facilitator, Jeanette Ruiz.  “This community is very fortunate to have such a strong, young, ambitious lady representing this wonderful community as a Board Member".


Flores is not the only RLA graduate recently recognized for contributions to their communities. 

On April 11, 2014, Pastor Rolland Slade, El Cajon RLA graduate and Senior Pastor at Meridian Baptist Church, was honored with a Public Health Champion Award from the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency. 

Pastor Slade is a current member of the El Cajon Resident Leaders in Action Committee.  His church, Meridian Baptist, officially adopted a Health and Wellness Ministry for the congregation in 2013, which includes a walking prayer group, incorporates images of fruits and vegetables on church meal advertisements, and places an overall emphasis on wellness.  Meridian Baptist is a recognized Live Well San Diego partner.

The RLA is a 10-week course that gives resident leaders training and tools to engage civically and create healthier, safer communities.  The County of San Diego, in partnership with Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP), is supporting RLAs this spring in National City, El Cajon, Linda Vista, City Heights, Vista, Fallbrook, and Mountain Empire.  Bayside Community Center was instrumental in bringing the RLA to Linda Vista.

Flores and Slade are just some of the success stories emerging from the diverse groups brought together by the RLAs, illustrating how participants come inspired and leave empowered. 

Community members join the RLA’s with a number of goals in mind: some come to learn how to get children more involved in community and school gardens; others come for training on how to lobby for community improvements, such as street repairs, better sidewalks and lighting on street corners.  No matter their individual motivations, the participants are united by a common thread: they want to make positive changes in their communities and are committed to learning how to make these happen.

Monica Burgers, a Linda Vista RLA graduate, heard about the RLA at church and was interested in learning more about improving the physical environment.  She wants to focus on preservation, improving her community, and activities for youth.

“I want to make taking care of my community a priority,” said Burgers. 

Nadia Arambula joined the Linda Vista RLA because she saw it as an opportunity to give back and develop a stronger sense of community.  

“I wanted to serve,” said Arambula.  “It makes me feel fulfilled, and provides a way to connect us all. We are united and can have a bigger impact. We are together as a group to raise consciousness.”

The RLA facilitators are just as passionate as the participants.

“The ladies, the Kitchenistas, are my inspiration,” gushed National City RLA Facilitator Patty Corona-Morales.  “They are highly motivated and very excited about this RLA opportunity in Spanish since they want to be role models, not just for their own families but also for our Latino community.”  

The Kitchenistas are graduates of the Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center ‘Cooking for Salud’ course.  The 7-week intensive course teaches basic tools that give families the power to change their daily eating habits.  Corona-Morales is both an Olivewood volunteer and a Kitchenista, and she has emerged as a leader amongst the Kitchenistas. 

The RLAs impact not only the participants and facilitators but also future generations.

Denise Strattmen, summer 2013 graduate from the Lemon Grove RLA, was inspired to participate after seeing the differences in Lemon Grove from the time she grew up there to raising her son there now. She and her then eight-year-old son participated in the RLA together.

“The RLA taught us how to get involved in our community,” said Strattmen. 

Now in fifth grade, her son is part of his school’s anti-bullying campaign. They are also both are involved in the Lemon Grove recreation council.

After graduating from the RLAs, participants continue to collaborate with and support one another.  The first RLA Council meeting, held on April 23, 2014, was organized to bring the developing RLA community together to share resources, provide feedback, and connect with each other.  Participants exchanged phone numbers, brainstormed ideas and proudly shared their success stories.

Community involvement is a key component of the Live Well San Diego initiative. Residents are taking the lead to identify priority needs in their communities, and working together with local organizations and government, they are making meaningful change.

To learn more about RLAs and how to get involved, visit the Community page.