2019 Safe Routes to Parks grantee: Greenfield Walking Group youth leaders


Last year I had the privilege of joining two Cal Walks’ youth leaders, Barbara and Jacelyn, at both APHA and PedsCount!. Working with youth has been awe-inspiring. When I was their age, I was thinking of moving out and heading to college, not about how to improve my community—well, not directly anyway.

I grew up in a neighborhood that looked like Greenfield, where Barbara and Jacelyn are from, so when I have an opportunity to help youth present at conferences in cities like San Diego and San Jose, I like to show them the potential for their neighborhood and advocacy. So when I found out I was taking them to APHA in San Diego I knew Chicano Park was a must-see on the trip. Barbara and Jacelyn loved the park and took a ton of pictures for their friends and to post on social media. Jacelyn even wrote a post about her experiences at APHA and Chicano Park, where she expressed her thoughts on wanting to see something like Chicano Park in Greenfield, and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if all local parks reflected the culture of their communities?”.

After the trip, a serendipitous opportunity presented itself when the Safe Routes to School National Partnership held an open call for their Activating Communities Grant program. This program is exactly what the youth had been searching for: an opportunity to engage community and get people invested and talking about how to make their community better. As a bonus, this program includes an implementable action plan to create safe routes to parks. The Greenfield youth leaders and I meet several times at the local coffee shop. Jacelyn, Jaime, Barbara, Maritza, Diana, and David all provided input and helped hammer out the details of what activities fit for this project and how the pieces could come together.

The proposal the youth developed includes tactical urbanism, community outreach, and art. The biggest vision for this work is to transform areas around parks in Greenfield by using temporary materials and infusing art. The youth feel that these temporary transformations will help get their community to not only envision the changes, but also see and experience them first-hand.

On February 6th, the Greenfield Walking Group received news that they’d been awarded the Activating Communities Grant, and I could not be more proud. The youth’s proposal is one of twelve communitiesselected (out of 115), and the only California community awarded! Now begins the exciting work of helping bring their vision to life. I remind the youth every chance I get that what they do makes a difference and that their advocacy has a meaningful impact on their community. While I was nowhere near as active as they are when I was a youth, as an adult ally I’m excited to help them plan and create the future they want to live.  

For more information on this project and how to support the Greenfield Walking Group and other youth groups, contact Esther Rivera at esther@californiawalks.org.