EGI Team meets with Nora Vargas

Chairwoman Vargas to Support Ending Girls Incarceration initiative

EGI meets with Vargas

Exciting news from Mid-City CAN's Ending Girls Incarceration (EGI) campaign: Juvenile Justice Organizer Manuel along with EGI team members Jasmin, Emilio and Policy Advisor Belen met with San Diego County Chairwoman Nora Vargas on March 6 and the supervisor agreed to be a champion for the initiative! "We are looking forward to working with Chairwoman Vargas and her staff on supporting the Ending Girls Incarceration initiative at the county level," said Manuel.

The EGI team had two asks for Chairwoman Vargas:  

The first was "Will you be a champion for Ending Girls Incarceration and prioritize the formation of a task force that incorporates community representation (Service providers, advocates and youth with lived experience as well as their families)? 

The second: Will you introduce a board letter directing probation to commit to the data transparency and establishing the task force?"

Vargas said yes to the first ask and our EGI team and the chair will work together to create a board letter.

Great progress made by the EGI team! Thank you Chairwoman Vargas for being a champion for EGI!

Volunteers honored at Volunteer Recognition Event

Volunteers honored

Mid-City CAN volunteers and staff had a fabulous time on Friday, January 26 attending the Volunteer Recognition event presented by the Somali Family Services of San Diego, Say San Diego, and Price Philanthropies in City Heights. A huge thank you and congratulations to our volunteers who were honored! Representing Mid-City CAN were Zaw, Denisse, Esperanza, Jannette, Briseyda, Rosa, and Fany, along with staffers Victor and Manuel. Thank you to the organizations for a great event honoring the wonderful volunteers! Everyone in attendance loved the food and fun prizes.

Volunteers are crucial in building a healthy and thriving community. THANK YOU to ours who keep our campaigns going. We appreciate all the sacrifices and effort that you make for the community day in and day out. 

Youth Leaders of the Year

Youth Council

We are thrilled to share the news that Mid-City CAN's Youth Council has been named "Youth Leaders of the Year" by District 9! The youth received the award at District 9's State of the District event on Saturday, January 27 at Wilson Middle School in City Heights.

“Congratulations Youth Council for receiving the prestigious ”Youth leaders of the year” award from District 9. You have been an inspiration to our community for many years and we are so proud of you. Thank you to Council President Sean Elo-Rivera and the District 9 team for recognizing the efforts of the youth,” said Diana Ross, Executive Director of Mid-City CAN.

Youth Council continues to work hard on their campaign to revitalize the City Heights Urban Village that includes the busy Officer Jeremy Henwood Memorial Park. Because of their advocacy $750K was set aside from the city's FY24 budget last June that will be used for the park. Their work goes on as they are focused on getting more funding to upgrade the park.

“Congratulations to Youth Council for this tremendous achievement. I am proud of how bright they shined during their campaign to revitalize the City Heights Urban Village. They consistently amaze me with their incredible passion and dedication by participating in weekly meetings, tabling at community events and advocating at the City's Budget hearings. While there’s still a lot of work to be done in the campaign I am confident that the youth will accomplish their goal and that we will have a special space for everyone in the community to enjoy,” said Mid-City CAN Youth Organizer Victor Ponce.

Congratulations youth, we are so proud of you! View photos from the State of the District event by clicking here.

Click here to learn more about their City Heights Urban Village Revitalization Campaign.

2023 Prebys Foundation Grant

Prebys Foundation

Mid-City CAN is excited to announce that we are a recipient of a Prebys Foundation 2023 grant!

The Prebys Foundation awarded 147 grants in December totaling $30.6 M to advance the arts, support youth success, improve health outcomes, and reduce disparities in medical research.

Mid-City CAN received the grant under the Youth Success and Financial Stability category.

“Our communities are better thanks to the work of Mid-City CAN,” said Grant Oliphant, CEO of Prebys Foundation. “This is why we are proud to invest to their work advancing our shared vision for a vibrant and thriving region. We encourage others to support, learn more, and celebrate their work.”

Prebys Foundation is the largest independent private foundation in San Diego County and works to create an inclusive, equitable, and dynamic future for all San Diegans.

“It is an honor to receive a Prebys Foundation Youth Success grant which will ensure the continued success of our Youth Opportunity Pass campaign and Youth Council program,” said Mid-City CAN Executive Director Diana Ross. “We want to thank Grant Oliphant and the amazing staff at Prebys Foundation for recognizing the work that we do in developing youth into leaders and building a healthy community.”

Prebys Foundation Grant

Snowy Wonderland 2023 recap

Snowy 2023

Thank you to everyone who attended our 3rd Annual Snowy Wonderland Family Event yesterday, we hope that you had a jolly good time!

Check out CBS 8's fab feature about Snowy Wonderland by clicking here!

Big thank you to Sherman Heights Community Center, all of our community partners, Santa and the Elf, the wonderful food vendors, and to our incredible volunteers and staff for making the event a huge success! View photos from Snowy Wonderland by clicking here.

Watch our 3rd Annual Snowy Wonderland video on YouTube by clicking the image below:

Help keep events like Snowy Wonderland FREE for our community by making a donation:

Giving Tuesday 2023

Giving Tuesday 2023

Mark your calendars: Giving Tuesday will be held on November 28!

Please consider a gift to Mid-City CAN to support our advocacy work that brings social justice and equity to City Heights and beyond while helping grow and support youth leaders and advocates in our community!

Giving Tuesday is a global movement created to inspire individuals to give back and be involved in creating a healthy community.

Our campaigns are led by community members and funded by community members.

Giving Tuesday 2023

For over 30 years Mid-City CAN's campaigns have made an impact in the community. We'd love to share some of the highlights that we accomplished in 2023:

  • Continued advocacy for the Youth Opportunity Pass (YOP) program by our Improving Transportation in City Heights (ITCH) team resulted in YOP extended for two more years!
  • Youth Council's campaign to revitalize the City Heights Urban Village including Officer Henwood Park resulted in receiving $750K from the City Budget! Our youth continue to advocate for more funding for the park.
  • The return of our Artivism (arts and activism) summer program and a partnership with The AjA Project included a field trip to Los Angeles where youth learned about Japanese-American incarceration during World War II. 
  • Juvenile Justice team supported Senate Bill 274 which passed and will prohibit the suspension of TK through 12 students for low-level behavior issues known as “willful defiance" and keeps students in schools.
  • Civic Engagement team has been informing and educating community members about Medi-Cal and how to get enrolled.
  • Networking Night returned and it was a pleasure connecting and educating the community about our work in Ending Girls Incarceration and YOP.

Whatever amount you can donate is greatly appreciated! To donate please click the donation button below. Thank you for your support!

Donation Button 

Policy Advocate Belen Speaks at SANDAG Meeting

Belen Hernandez

Mid-City CAN Policy Advocate Belen spoke at the SANDAG’s November Board of Directors meeting and shared feedback gathered from community members in underserved populations. More frequent public transportation with expanded routes, safety improvements, discounted or free fares, and amenities such as shading, benches, and bathrooms are some of the improvements that community members are seeking. Belen stated that City Heights is one of the hottest places in San Diego because of climate change and it is urgent that programs that reduce pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions are funded as soon as possible. Below is the transcript of her speech:

"Good morning everybody, my name is Belen Hernandez, I am the Policy Advocate at Mid-City CAN and a member of the Social Equity Working Group. The Working Group is composed of 12 organizations that help SANDAG engage with historically under resourced populations and provide policy level input on the agency's projects and programs. We are located throughout the region from San Ysidro all the way to Vista. And over the last several months the community partners that make up the working group hosted meetings and pop-ups at community events across the region to gather feedback from our region's most underserved populations.

Personally, our organization is based in City Heights, so we conducted outreach and City Heights but also other areas like Encanto and even reaching populations like the Preuss School in La Jolla through tabling events and different community meetings.

The majority of the feedback we received from our social equity communities was related to public transit because transit is for many their lifeline to access the places they need to go such as school, employment, places of worship, doctor’s appointments, recreation, and so many other daily life activities. Our community members aren't asking for anything new … they still need faster and more frequent public transportation with expanded routes to get to more places, safety improvements, regular maintenance and cleaning, discounted or free fares, improved accessibility for seniors and disabled people, and amenities like shading benches and bathrooms.

Many of our communities report that they also need better infrastructure so they and their families can also feel safe biking and walking around their neighborhoods. These transportation struggles are compounded with the rising costs of living and lack of affordability and quality housing which leads to displacement. This is an issue in many of our communities and it's something we've been discussing at the Social Equity Working Group.

Beyond historic under investment in quality transportation infrastructure in our communities our neighborhoods have also been unfairly impacted by some of the worst air quality in the state while also suffering the most as the climate continues to warm. City Heights is one of the hottest places in San Diego because it's an urban heat island. And this is why it is so urgent that projects and programs that reduce pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions are funded as soon as possible and are prioritized in our communities first to rectify this historic inequities.

Thank you all for the opportunity to share this with you this morning."

The video can be seen by clicking here (Belen speaks at the 46 minute mark).

Civic Engagement's QTI+ Youth Survey

QTI+ Youth Survey

Our Civic Engagement team is enjoying working with the interns from the FACES program of Hoover High School and the Junior Achievement of San Diego County program with students from Lincoln High School. One of their projects is organizing a Spring 2024 event for QTI+ youth. Intern Simon would like to hear from QTI+ Youth regarding a spring program:

Hi, I'm Simon, a senior in high school and I'm interning at Mid-City CAN. I’m organizing a community event which will be taking place in the Spring of 2024 and will focus on the issues currently facing QTI+ (Queer, Transgender, Intersex) Youth in San Diego. I made this survey because I would love to hear from you if you are a QTI+ Youth to learn more about how these issues impact you!

Please fill out the survey by clicking this link. If you would like to be involved with the planning, you can email me at [email protected]

Thank you and have a great day!

Visit from Deputy Chief Probation Officer

Juvenile Justice

Our Juvenile Justice team had a special guest at their October 26 meeting.

Thank you to Deputy Chief Probation Officer Tabatha Wilburn who is with the County of San Diego for stopping by to talk to our Juvenile Justice Momentum Team! Wilburn has been employed with the San Diego County Probation Department for over 20 years and has been assigned to both adult and juvenile divisions, with much of her service being juvenile focused.

The mission of San Diego County Juvenile Probation is to fully support youth and their families with evidence-based practices that focus on rehabilitation, healing and positive youth development.

Wilburn has had diverse probation assignments that include working with youth clients in juvenile facilities and also in placement for dual youth, working in investigations, supervision, and drug court units, and serving as a probation department trainer.

Thank you Tabatha for joining us! View photos by visiting our Flickr page.

📷: Guadalupe Rojas, Mid-City CAN

Youth Opportunity Pass extended until 2026

YOP Extended Until 2025

The SANDAG Board of Directors on Friday, October 27 voted to approve a budget amendment adding $643 million in federal, state, and local revenue to advance more than 30 projects throughout the San Diego region over the next five years.

With the additional funding the Youth Opportunity Pass (YOP) program has been extended for two more years and is funded until June 2026.

“Mid-City CAN is excited about YOP’s two-year extension and we thank SANDAG, Chair Nora Vargas, Vice Chair Sean Elo-Rivera, our staff, and Improving Transportation in City Heights team members for all their hard work to make sure that YOP is extended,” said Mid-City CAN Organizing Director Ariana Federico Mondragon. SANDAG will release their YOP Impact Study in November and the numbers show that the program has been a huge success.

Mid-City CAN attended the Board of Directors meeting and spoke in favor of passing the budget amendment. Improving Transportation in City Heights (ITCH) members Denisse and Farnelle talked about the benefits of YOP, and Base Builder Guadalupe and Organizing Director Ariana read testimonies written by high school students and ITCH members George and Ezra who were unable to attend because they were at school.

“I've been riding public transportation since I was 3 months old and I'm still using public transportation. I still don't have a license and I depend on public transportation. So I've been a long-time rider using public transportation. I want you guys to approve this budget as it's important for the youth because we are going to be long time riders,” said Denisse.

"When we prioritize the health, safety, and access to resources for our youth in the form of accessible transportation we see better change," said Farnelle. 

Since the Board approved the FY 2024 Annual Program Budget in May, SANDAG has received additional state and federal funds and an increase in revenue collection. The budget amendment was brought to the Board to allocate the revenue to projects in the budget.

“These investments will improve the lives of everyone across our County, by increasing accessibility and enhancing all our region has to offer. I’m proud of the work that we are doing at SANDAG to deliver on our commitments to the people of the San Diego region through a lens of equity and inclusion,” said SANDAG and San Diego County Board of Supervisor Chairwoman Nora Vargas.

SANDAG Vice Chair and Council President Sean Elo-Rivera praised Mid-City CAN team members who were present as well as the many who have advocated YOP for more than a decade.

“I want to thank Farnelle and Denisse, as well as Guadalupe and Ariana for bringing forward the voices of youth from my district into this conversation. Your advocacy has been incredibly impactful. The Youth Opportunity Passes that are in here and that we funded in the past are a direct result of the advocacy of City Heights youth and City Heights mothers and grandmothers for over a decade. Thank you for keeping at it. It's having a huge impact on youth across the region. I hope you all are as proud of yourselves as I am of you,” he said.

Learn more about the YOP program by visiting

Transcript of Ezra and George's statements:

George's statement read by Ariana: The YOP program has proven to be beneficial to the all people in the County. San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), being the 2nd largest school district in California, has seen widespread positive effects due to the implementation of this program. Free transportation across San Diego has provided students with opportunities never before seen, allowing them to freely travel to school, jobs, recreational activities and much more without worrying about transportation. Cutting funding for this program would be cruel to the youth of all San Diego as some have come to see it as their main form of transportation. That is why I urge the board to keep funding this program, as it would be beneficial for students who don’t have the same economic opportunities as others, allowing for greater equity for our youth.

Ezra's statement read by GuadalupeMy name is Ezra Skerlecz and I am a senior at San Diego High School. I wrote this statement in complete support of extending the Youth Opportunity Pass program. The program has allowed countless youth, myself included, greater access to educational, vocational, and recreational opportunities. The value of these opportunities is beyond quantification, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that extending the program is well worth the investment. The program serves as a major step in establishing a more equitable San Diego as kids like me who were previously obstructed by financial barriers, such as the one posed by bus fares, are now more free to pursue their interests. I ask that you please invest in the community and fund the extension of the YOP program. Thank you.

Youth Council at Dia de los Muertos 2023

DDLM 2023

Youth Council and our Civic Engagement team had fun attending the 26th Annual City Heights Dia de los Muertos community event at Officer Jeremy Henwood Memorial Park on October 28! The youth showcased art that they painted under the guidance of Maira Meza of Arte Hasta La Muerte earlier this month. Civic Engagement's newest team member Raphael was also present and talked to community members about Medi-Cal.

Community members were entertained throughout the day: The colorful low-riders cars were provided by Dead End Car Club and the crowd enjoyed performances by Mariachi Victoria, Hoover High Marching Band, Drummers Without Borders, San Diego Ballet, Ballet Folklorico, Fern Street Circus, Let's Dance for Fun - youth dance group and more. Paper mask making activities for all ages was hosted by the San Diego Guild of Puppetry.

Youth Council

Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican tradition and celebration in honor of our deceased loved ones in which we offer them altars that contain food and items that our deceased enjoyed in life. Many families throughout the United States observe this tradition in their homes and celebrate together with the community to represent the tradition of people visiting cemeteries to decorate graves.

For more photos visit our Flickr page at:

Dia de los Muertos 2023 | Flickr

Mid-City CAN Calls on SANDAG to hire visionary new CEO

Lupe speaks at Press Conference

Coalition of San Diego organizations call on SANDAG to hire visionary new CEO during Sept. 8 press conference

On Friday, September 8th, coalition members representing over 15 diverse organizations including Mid-City CAN, held a joint press conference calling on SANDAG to employ an open, transparent, and community-involved hiring process to replace CEO Hasan Ikhrata and to pursue an equitable, sustainable vision for San Diego transportation.

Mid-City CAN Organizing Director Ariana and Base Builder Lupe were part of the press conference. Lupe was one of the speakers and talked about the importance and impact of the Youth Opportunity Pass program. Excerpts from her speech:

"Many of our youth advocates are dependent on public transit, including our newest member Mia. Mia depends on public transportation to get to school out in Mission Bay, because her local high school doesn’t offer college prep courses. Almost daily, her commute is about 2-hours when she travels from Sherman Heights to Mission Bay to then City Heights. Despite the long commutes – she is determined to have a better education and is pursuing a career as a school counselor.

I am amazed by our youth’s work, of how much they care about their community and are eager to be part of the changes that will improve their surroundings. Like Mia, YOP gives youth the opportunity to participate. Personally, what saddens me the most is when someone has potential and the capacity to do great things in life but are unable to reach their maximum potential due to the lack of opportunities and resources. YOP helps give youth a fair chance regardless of their socioeconomic background. 

Like many others, I would like to see a permanent program that will benefit youth for years to come. The next SANDAG CEO needs to demonstrate commitment to the needs of youth and our working families. In addition, SANDAG’s next CEO must support and implement the 10 Transit Lifelines, to meet the needs of our transit dependent community."

The press conference took place in conjunction with the first SANDAG Board meeting since Ikrata announced his resignation (effective Dec 29). The organizations also gave public testimony during the meeting.

The environmental, health, mobility, social justice and community-based organizations, who co-authored this press statement will advocate for hiring another preeminent transportation planning expert. We want to ensure the new hire will expand on Ikhrata’s accomplishments and surpass state mandates to achieve an equitable, sustainable future for all residents of San Diego County, with clean air, healthy communities, and green jobs.

View photos from the press conference by clicking here.

Coalition Statement on SANDAG search for CEO

Coalition logos

SAN DIEGO, September 8, 2023 - The following is a statement from a coalition of San Diego organizations regarding SANDAG's search for new CEO:

The environmental, health, mobility, and community organizations we represent are calling on the leadership of SANDAG and our region to conduct an open and community-involved hiring process as they replace Hasan Ikhrata as CEO of SANDAG. We need a preeminent transportation planning expert, someone who will not only reach - but surpass - state mandates to achieve an equitable, sustainable future for all residents of San Diego County, with clean air, healthy communities, and green jobs. 

As a planning body for a region representing over 3 million residents, SANDAG leadership has a responsibility to conduct a hiring process that, at all stages, is informed by public involvement. The new hire’s qualifications and contractual obligations must reflect San Diego’s need for a candid and diplomatic candidate with experience planning the transportation infrastructure of a major metropolitan area. We firmly believe that the CEO of SANDAG must have a forward-looking vision and actively advocate for all members of San Diego’s community.

This vision for San Diego County is one that embraces multi-modal transportation with options for drivers, transit riders, bikers, and walkers alike. It aligns with state laws requiring massive cuts in GHG emissions and air pollution, most of which will need to come from the transportation sector. 

We must center real solutions like the 10 transit lifelines - community-led priorities to advance affordable and frequent transit solutions, access to jobs, and benefit all San Diegans. In recent years, projects like youth opportunity passes, the Blue Line extension, and more have shown what we can accomplish when we work together to chart bold new directions. Now, SANDAG’s leadership must continue to acknowledge and address the current deficiencies and inequities, while working to achieve a sustainable long-term future.

San Diego has the tools to make our transportation system– including bikeways, buslines, and highways– the best in the world, and the CEO of SANDAG holds a pivotal role in shaping our future.  For this reason, we are calling on SANDAG to look for candidates with expertise and vision, and to root their hiring process in transparency. 

AG Rob Bonta Meets City Heights Youth

AG Bonta visit

Mid-City CAN, Reality Changers, and Youth Will youth had a round table discussion with Attorney General Rob Bonta on Thursday, August 17 at the Price Building in City Heights!

“Seeing so many young people with a passion for their community fills me with hope for the future. This generation is impressive. I say that both as a dad of a college freshman and high school freshman, but also as AG,” said Bonta.

The California Department of Justice is meeting with young people in cities across the state to hear directly from them and get their input on issues that youth are concerned about.

The youth representing Mid-City CAN were Mia, Salma, Janelle, Ezra, George, and Ashley.

"It was a lot of fun, it's very insightful to see all the things that he had to say. And it's very cool to see that him and his office were taking into account youth voices and opinions such as mine," said Ezra.

Great job by all youth that participated in the round table!

View photos from the event by clicking here.

Press release: Engaging Young Leaders: Attorney General Bonta Holds First in a New Series of Youth Community Conversations

Coalition Grateful to Hasan Ikhrata

Coalition Statement

The following statement is from Mid-City CAN, Environmental Health Coalition, SanDiego350, Center on Policy Initiatives, and City Heights Community Development:

The environmental, health, and community organizations we represent are deeply grateful to Hasan Ikhrata for five years of visionary leadership at SANDAG that transformed our region’s thinking and progress on transportation and equity. 

We are calling on the leadership of SANDAG and our region to hire another preeminent transportation planning expert to succeed Hasan, someone who will expand on his accomplishments and not only reach - but surpass - state mandates to achieve an equitable, sustainable future for all residents of San Diego County, with clean air, healthy communities, and green jobs. We call for an open, transparent, inclusive, and community-involved hiring process in order to identify the best candidates.

To do that, we must renounce the narrow, isolationist thinking that led SANDAG to approve a Regional Transportation Plan that was rejected by the 4th California Appellate Court because it would have  resulted in more congestion, toxic, lung-damaging pollution and climate change-causing emissions. We must move towards real solutions like the 10 transit lifelines - community-led priorities to advance affordable and frequent transit solutions and benefit all San Diegans.

Under Hasan’s leadership, SANDAG showed what we can accomplish when we work together to chart a bold, new direction - such as creating SANDAG’s innovative Five Big Moves, completing the Blue Line extension to UCSD on time and within budget, stabilizing the Del Mar Bluffs and securing funding to improve the LOSSAN rail corridor, successfully lobbying for project funding, securing Youth Opportunity Passes, and reaching agreement with Mexico to expand the Otay Mesa border crossing.

We know we have the technology and tools to address the climate crisis, create good-paying, green jobs, and prioritize environmental justice for communities neglected or harmed by previous plans. What we need to see right now is political will - an immediate commitment from SANDAG leadership.