San Joaquin Valley

Opinion: The Central Valley Lacks Public Parks, But We Can Do Better

Trust for Public Land annually ranks park systems across the 100 most populated cities in the United States. Those in California’s Central Valley often rank near the bottom: Fresno ranks 97th. Bakersfield is 85th. Stockton ranks 77th.

Stockton and other Central Valley cities can improve their ranking with the help of California’s budget surplus. When we build parks in neighborhoods that don’t have any, we change the lives and futures of generations to come.

Bringing sidewalks to Merced

Pioneer Elementary School in Merced has two pedestrian pathways for kids who walk to school: one’s a paved sidewalk and the other is a strip of gravel on the side of the road. A local organization is trying to bring more sidewalks to pedestrian-heavy areas like the elementary school with GIS mapping, but ongoing efforts to improve Merced’s walkability might be cut short by budget shortfalls.

Students harvest food for community

Nearly 900 pounds of citrus fruit is making its way to the tables of many hungry Stockton families, thanks to Healthy Choices, a program of the Health Education Council. Students in the YMCA’s Healthy Choices afterschool group at Franklin High School have been spending their afternoons harvesting fruit from citrus trees in the Eastside neighborhood surrounding Franklin High School.

Neutralizing drugs, and now housing blight

A Stockton non-profit group that originally formed to fight a neighborhood’s drugtrade has morphed out of necessity into an organization that is buying up abandoned homes, fixing them and getting them back on the market. Without the group, life in the blighted neighborhood would be even grimmer.

Success stories: Stockton kids take back their park

Williams Brotherhood Park in South Stockton was plagued with gangs and crime. Families stopped going there and parents told their children to stay away. But a group of area youth decided they wanted their park back. They started a campaign to reclaim the park and won the support of local community organizations and, ultimately, the city. Now the park is cleaner, the bathrooms are open and families and kids are returning. LeCresia Hawkins, special projects coordinator for Community Partnership for Families of San Joaquin, which has offices in the park, tells the story.

The story behind the Doctors Academy

Having been raised by immigrant grandparents, and being a farm worker myself, I found myself struggling as an undergraduate at Stanford University. Social and emotional support from two classmates, also from “low-performing” high schools and from immigrant families, helped pull me through. My dream was to return to the Central Valley as a physician to help smooth the way for others in similar circumstances to be successful in college and achieve their professional dreams.

Stockton's rise and fall

Forbes Magazine recently ranked Stockton as the second most miserable city in America. HealthyCal contributor Tony Wilson files this video report taking a look at how the city fell so far so fast. A big reason: Stockton rode the housing boom to the top, then fell badly when the market collapsed.

Fit bodies, fit minds

In Delano, a poor, heavily agricultural, mostly Latino community, the local school district began focusing more on physical fitness about 10 years ago. Since then, they’ve seen fitness improve, but also student behavior and academic performance. Ken Dyar, a physical education teacher who inspired the change, tells the story here.

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