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Desde La Base- Summer 2012

"The formation of committees within the program, however, will enable Safe Passage's vision for a revitalized community to expand in new and exciting ways."

No matter how successful a program is, there often comes a time when rethinking the order of business is the very move that keeps the program vital.  This reality came to light recently at a Safe Passage meeting, when the conversation turned toward creating a new infrastructure.  As a result, this crucial program dedicated to community safety is now in the process of building three committees, and each and every Safe Passage  volunteer must join one of them.  Program Director Ana Gomez states, “Our goal is to ensure that every volunteer has the chance to engage in leadership activities, planning, and decision making.  This way, everyone steps into an advisory role and every voice is heard.”


For more than ten years, Safe Passage volunteers have  stationed themselves at local   crosswalks, escorting  children to and from school in a neighborhood that is no stranger to the threat of gang violence.  Instantly recognizable in their green t-shirts and jackets, they maintain strong lines of communication with the Los Angeles Police Departments local Hollenbeck station, reporting instances of new graffiti as well as other threats to community safety such as broken streetlights and drug sales.  The  formation of committees within the program, however, will enable Safe Passage’s vision for a revitalized community to expand in new and exciting ways.


For starters, the Community Beautification  Committee will see to it that community clean-ups  begin again in July.  Once a regular feature on the  program’s agenda, they have been on   hiatus for the past 2 years.  But now, with the recent outbreak of graffiti throughout the neighborhood, the need to   resume the clean-ups has become very apparent.  This committee will also spearhead efforts to utilize  information that was gathered in during last year’s PEQI (Pedestrian Environmental Quality Index) survey in collaboration with the UCLA-Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (UCLA COEH) and The California Endowment.  In the coming months, this committee will use the data that was collected to advocate for new green spaces within Boyle Heights and safer alleyways.


Members of Safe Passage’snew Partnership Committee will strive to forge connections with members of other community organizations.  At present, Partnership Committee members have established that they will begin attending parent meetings at Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez Learning Center, and  conduct a presentation on behalf of the program at the beginning of 2013.  In participating in these activities, the committee hopes to spark dialogue and also engage a wider network of community residents in the work of Safe Passage.


As for the third cohort, they already have an event on the books.  Members of the Pedestrian Safety Committee are currently planning the June Safety   Assembly, which is open to all Boyle Heights residents who are ready to learn more about – and take action in –  this crucial area of  community life.  Prior to the Assembly, adults and youth will have the chance to participate in a series of educational     trainings and workshops.  And at the Assembly, IMPACTO youth will   present a video on    pedestrian safety that they will have produced as part of the California     Department of Public Health’s “It’s Up to Us”  pedestrian safety campaign, for which Community in Action was recently awarded a grant. 

According to Gomez, these committees mark the dawning of a new era in which Safe Passage volunteers truly get to know one another, for the    betterment of the whole.  Toward this end, at a recent meeting Gomez asked each member to stand up and introduce themselves.  At first, the volunteers were aghast, since many of them have worked side by side for years.  But the need for this ice breaker quickly became apparent, as  volunteers found themselves realizing that although they knew the faces of other   volunteers, knowing their names was (in some cases) another matter.  “The exercise was ultimately light and fun,” Gomez states, “but it underlined the need for infrastructure and more interaction between all members.” 


Gomez laughs when she recalls the playful  indignation that she encountered when orchestrating this exercise, but is quick to point out that the arguments that take place at meetings are actually one of her favorite aspects of the dynamic that exists within the program.  “I enjoy witnessing the passion of our volunteers.  Those debates are fun, and that’s always when the real progress happens.” 

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