South Kern Residents & Youth Recognized for Making Kern Region More Livable
On March 1, 2018, the Kern Council of Governments (KernCOG) awarded the South Kern Building Healthy Communities—Comunidades Unidas Action Team (South Kern BHC—CU) the 2018 Regional Award of Merit For Community Involvement, which honors “programs, organizations and individuals who are making life in the Kern region better through innovative, cooperative efforts.” South Kern BHC is a movement advocating for “health equity through power building, partnerships and narrative change rooted in inclusion and race,” comprised of residents, youth, community-based organizations, schools, and local government agencies.
Not only did this award recognize the years of deep collaboration across partners and residents who make up the Comunidades Unidas Action Team but also the youth leaders who are the driving force behind the successes of Comunidades Unidas. Without a doubt, this recognition was immensely meaningful for the youth leaders who have fought for years to bring much needed improvements to their community—from creating more walkable streets and sidewalks to safer parks to play.
Greenfield Walking Group and Cal Walks Youth Leader Kimberly Alvarez Colmenero accepting the award on behalf of South Kern BHC—CU
Greenfield Walking Group and Cal Walks Youth Leader Kimberly Alvarez Colmenero accepted the award on behalf of South Kern BHC—CU and delivered a passionate speech to over 200 attendees expressing her love for being part of this movement: “I didn’t feel excluded from the BHC-Comunidades Unidads team and it’s important to know that and that the youth and I made a change and opened the doors for me and others. I was not alone when I was trying to work something in my community. We all worked on this like a family.”
High school senior Jason Alvarez Colmenero—a long-time Greenfield Walking Group and Cal Walks Youth Leader—shared how he and other youth leaders felt inspired to lead this work for their loved ones: “Looking at my little siblings, they inspired me so they can have it easier and they don’t have problems where they live.”
And the youth have done more than simply open doors—just last year, the youth were instrumental in securing nearly six millions of dollars of infrastructure improvements for their incorporated community of Rexland Acres. But it was far from a walk in the park! The Greenfield Walking Group and Cal Walks Youth Leaders worked hard to mobilize and inspire their peers to collect hundreds of signatures door-to-door and participated in countless community meetings with partners and residents to support the County’s application to the state Active Transportation Program. Thanks to their hard work, the County will be installing sidewalks and safe crossings that will connect all the main streets in Rexland Acres—with improvements expected to be completed by June 2019!
This award and recognition by KernCOG instilled a deep sense of pride in the youth. “To know that I had an opportunity to make a change and not just sit at home[…] that I accomplished something…it may not be anything [to some] but I put all my inspiration and heart to it,” shared Diana Cuevas, an 8th grader and up-and-coming Greenfield Walking Group and Cal Walks Youth Leaders. The unbridled passion the youth bring to this work and their refusal to settle for less is what inspires all the partners—from government agencies to community organizations—to continue coming to the table and working together to continue the fight for healthier communities.