Maria “Lou” Calanche believes in dreams. But Calanche, a community activist since her teens, knows that residents of the Ramona Gardens housing project need leadership skills to turn their dreams into reality. As Executive Director of the Boyle Heights non-profit Legacy LA, she works with parents and at-risk teens to find alternatives to the gangs, violence and drug addiction that perpetuate the cycle of incarceration, teen pregnancy and low graduation rates.
Author: Margaret T. Simpson
Gay Olivos loves Willard Intermediate School. It’s a family thing. Olivos, her father and grandfather graduated from the Santa Ana junior high on the corner of Ross Street and Washington Avenue. Her family’s history is here, and Olivos wants to preserve the place that holds so many good memories.
If you live in Shasta County, you’re more likely to die than people in 57 of California’s 58 counties, even after adjusting for age. The Healthy Shasta collaborative is trying to change that. An initiative of health experts and local leaders willing to incorporate healthy lifestyle changes into their own policies and working environments, the collaborative offers options like free health club memberships, on-campus bicycles and healthy food vending machines to their employees, students and customers. And one of the collaborative’s projects is focusing intently on child obesity and the schools.
La Mesa, with a population of nearly 60,000, sits on a series of hills just east of San Diego. Its scenic character masks health statistics that are the worst in San Diego County, with 40 percent of the adult population overweight and an additional 23 percent considered obese. The area also has the highest rates of adult diabetes and heart disease. But now the city has written a strategic wellness plan that engages schools, health providers, businesses and faith communities in an ongoing effort to create the healthiest city in the region.
“We’re walking to the Moon,” says Linda Reich, deputy director of community services for the City of Chino.
Reich is talking about the newest goal of the city’s Chino Walks program, the adult walking club that is the cornerstone of its Healthy Chino wellness initiative. Since its beginning in 2005, Reich has logged every step the club’s members have accrued in their quest for fitness. In Chino, where 68 percent of residents are obese and five of the city’s 10 leading causes of death are obesity-related, wellness is serious business. In public health surveys, Chino’s obesity rate is higher than both San Bernardino County at 65 percent and the State of California at 55 percent.
Can a city redefine itself through health and wellness? Long Beach wants to try, and its residents are the reason. The city is the voice of the people, and the people want pedestrian-friendly streets, bicycle lanes, grocery stores and cooking seminars. Wellness doesn’t come cheap, but Long Beach is hoping its ambitious portfolio of grants and innovative programs will attract new funders eager to participate in this urban laboratory that recently hired its own Bike Ambassador, Olympic cyclist Tony Cruz.
The city of El Monte sponsors a walking club and is working with local convenience stores to stock more healthy alternatives to junk food and alcohol. The efforts are part of the Healthy El Monte initiative, which seeks to combat high rates of obesity and diabetes in a city of 125,000 sandwiched between major freeways and industrial sites. Margaret Simpson has the story.
Dismayed by a teen culture based on intolerance and stereotypes, directors of local nonprofit youth programs in Pasadena designed Culture Shock, a week-long summer workshop that teaches conflict resolution and leadership skills to teens ages 13-17 from the city’s public and private high schools. To hear the teens tell it, the results have been impressive.
The city of El Monte is changing the health of its residents by changing the landscape. With the help of a nonprofit partner and 740 new trees, El Monte is creating an urban forest to remedy its unique environmental and health challenges.
Last year 1.9 million California children who were eligible for free meals in the summer months did not take advantage of the program. This year, summer program managers are trying to make sure that any child who needs a meal, gets one.