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Community News: East

EAST LOS ANGELES : 3rd Street Targeted by Cleanup Project

November 06, 1994|MARY ANNE PEREZ

Donning orange safety vests and new work gloves, about 80 youths and parents last week cleaned up a stretch of 3rd Street, the first phase of an effort to keep the area clean while involving young people in the community.

The East L.A. Youth Leadership Council, part of the countywide Hope in Youth gang diversion program, has adopted 3rd Street between Ford and Atlantic boulevards through the county Public Works Department's Adopt-a-Highway program, which has been successful in helping keep highways clean. The group, which receives free cleaning equipment from the county, promises to keep the stretch tidy for at least two years.

It is the first Eastside stretch of an unincorporated county street to be adopted by an organization for upkeep, said youth organizer Guy Torres.

"We live close by and we wanted to help uplift the community," said Librada Torres, who joined in the cleanup with her children, Manuel, 11, Vanessa, 12, and Martin, 5.

Brooms, shovels, hoes, a box of orange trash bags, ice chests filled with sodas and water jugs greeted volunteers as the day's work began.

"With this positive act, we are hoping to break down the negative stereotypes we have heard about young people," said Elaine Sarinana, 16, who addressed the group at a King Taco restaurant before starting off down the street. "We are challenging other groups to get out there and make a difference and show true leadership skills."

Hope in Youth, a consortium of religious groups and community organizations spearheaded by the Catholic Church, grew out of a concern about gang problems. Funded by member organizations--$5.5 million from the city and county and $2 million from the state--it counts 11,665 parents and youths as participants.

Six months ago, Torres started meeting with about eight teen-agers to talk about improving the community, building leadership and job skills and spreading the word about the East L.A. Leadership Council. Now, the group numbers about 40.

"This is something that the youth saw as very important," Torres said of the cleaning effort last weekend. "You can't tell people about life and how to live when they look outside and have no hope."

In their regular meetings, members of the local group have been learning how to prepare for job searches as well as how to organize themselves to help the community. The group would like to address such problems as the drop-out and teen pregnancy rates, said Brenda Esparza, 17.

Adopting 3rd Street was the group's first public effort at improving the community.

"We visualize unity in our community," Esparza said. "We're not against gangs or anything, but we're for unity in our families and our community."

The group plans to pick up trash along the adopted stretch every two weeks--more often if needed. Members also plan to decorate light poles and trees for the holidays, clean up graffiti, and eventually expand cleanup efforts to other streets.

"We figure if we raise the standard of living, we can uplift the community," Torres said. "These are generally youth who didn't know each other before. It's a beautiful thing to see people working for their community. They are leading the community in a big way."

Information: (213) 526-1940.

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