Meet the Leaders of the Future: Free Our Dreams Youth Organizing Summit 2017


I’m Halima Ali. I was born in the refugee camp in Kenya because my family was running away from the war in Somalia. I came to the USA in 2004. I’m involved with this community because we need to make our voice heard and change a lot within this community. I am a member of City Heights Youth for Change, right now we are focused on the Building Better San Diego. We are trying to get more affordable housing for people that are low income. I am also a co-chair of the Food Justice Momentum Team with Mid-City CAN.

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Celebrating Peace, Safety, Justice in San Diego Unified

“Have you ever messed up?” Over 50 people in the crowd raised their hands, responding to Benita Page from Tariq Khamisa Foundation. “Restorative practices need to be a way of life,” Page added, “because we’re all going to have challenges and mistakes.”


Last Wednesday, August 31st Mid-City CAN celebrated the adoption of the School Climate Bill of Rights, which prioritizes restorative practices and principles over traditional punitive policies in San Diego Unified. Leading up to the screening of Education Under Arrest, the community celebration centered around the conversation that restorative practices, to be successful, need to become a way of life and not just a discipline policy.

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El papel de la confianza en la activación del voto latino


Los latinos enfrentamos un sistema lleno de barreras para poder tomar decisiones en nuestra comunidad. La desconfianza, las dificultades con el idioma, y la omisión de nuestras necesidades son algunas de las barreras que limitan la participación de los latinos en la toma de decisiones y en el voto. En City Heights, donde más de la mitad de la comunidad es de origen latino, el voto es la clave para tener una voz y procurar la seguridad, la salud y el bienestar de nuestros seres queridos. En Mid-City CAN estamos expandiendo nuestro trabajo para que el voto sea más accesible ya que queremos ver mejores resultados, más rápido, para nuestra comunidad latina y todo City Heights.

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Building Power Block by Block in City Heights


To vote is to have a say in our community’s safety, health, and quality of life. At Mid-City CAN we are expanding our voter engagement efforts to build power in City Heights. Our goal is to see better and quicker results for our community. We are part of a movement to ensure fairness across all places by making sure that young people, immigrants, and low-income families also have a say.

Voting is about being able to make decisions on the issues that affect our everyday lives. From education and transportation to public spaces and safety, more affluent neighborhoods, which vote at a higher rate, have determined how and where resources and opportunities are allocated.

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Youth of Color Heal, Learn, Connect in the Outdoors

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Our youth are back from camp with new connections, insight, and knowledge.

Located in 1,500 acres of beautiful Yellow Pine Forest, Grizzly Creek Ranch hosts the Boys and Men of Color Camp and Sisterhood Rising Leadership Retreat, where youth of color from all over California—participating in the Building Healthy Communities initiative—converge to engage in a week-long program of team building, advocacy, storytelling, and leadership skills.

“Every time I go to these things, I listen to what people have to say and try to feel what they feel; that’s how you learn, by putting yourself in other people’s shoes,” Victor explained that he shares this new wisdom from camp with his younger brothers.

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School District Adopts School Climate Bill of Rights

On July 11, 2017, the San Diego Unified School District unanimously voted to adopt the School Climate Bill of Rights put forth by the Mid-City CAN Peace Promotion Momentum Team.

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In my own words: Sisterhood Rising

Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?

This August, I returned to the space that motivated me for years as a young woman growing up in City Heights, and I was reminded that I am capable of transforming my community.


There were dozens of roses blooming in the Sisterhood Rising Retreat, growing and blossoming despite injustice in the air. I saw a young lady gain the courage to stand in front of her sisters and sing. I saw another young woman physically and morally support her team during the ropes course. I was in the same spot not too long ago.

This space was created for us to finally step out of the box that society puts us in, for these young women to acknowledge that they are not weeds because their skin color is a darker shade, and to learn not to be ashamed of the battle scars they all have from the constant struggle of oppression.

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Reminder: Why we vote

Last October, Carol Kim was in a hit and run car accident. Instead of staying at the scene, she had a more important mission to accomplish: convincing the people of City Heights that their votes count.

“I am so convinced that your vote counts that I called someone to pick me up from my totaled car to come here,” said Kim.

VotingSmall.jpgKim is the Vice President of Run Women Run, an organization that supports, recruits, and trains women candidates to run for public office. She was one of three panelists to stress the importance of voting at the Mid-City Community Advocacy Network City Heights Community Convening. The Convening, formerly known as the Grantee Retreat, focused on empowering residents and organizations to engage people in City Heights to register to vote.

“We deserve to be at the decision making table. We deserve to have our voices heard. We cannot be there if we are not showing up and casting our ballots,” said Kim. “We are not heard unless we vote. Civic engagement is great, but if your folks are not voting, it’s just noise. I hate to say it. As politicians it’s just noise unless you cast those ballots”

In her own words: Why I'm back in City Heights

Mid-City Community Advocacy Network is proud and honored to have an old friend return home to experience her neighborhood through new eyes. Lesliee Renteria writes about this exciting season in her own words:

"As an undocumented woman of color in City Heights I was constantly reminded to live behind the shadows, to not speak up because it was not my right. I grew a fear to walk in the streets surrounded with poverty and violence. I feared that my voice will be shut down and I will be denied from opportunities like my home country did. However, my advocates were around the corner of my house.

I began my journey of change with the Mid-City Community Advocacy Network Youth Council. I felt a sense of belonging despite my residency status and ethnicity. I was told that I had a voice and it mattered. Being surrounded by young leaders became my safe place. The skatepark campaignb was my first step into the world of organizing and advocacy. I was introduced to the power of the people and the power of community through a collective effort. It took lobbying our elected officials, rallying in our community, speaking with Private and Public foundations and about 4 years to obtain land and funding to construct a community skatepark for young skaters to receive their safe place. Mid-City CAN allowed me to realize that I can be my own advocate.

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Officials Praise Student-Lead Halal Effort

Students, parents, and community members gathered at Crawford High School on June 10, 2015 to celebrate the success of integrating a Halal option for lunch. After two years of advocating and three months of testing the Halal Chicken Chili Lime Bowl pilot program, the students held their breath for the final verdict, waiting to see if the school district would continue to offer the lunch next year.

“There’s only one way to find out what the students will eat and that’s listening to the students tell you about the food they want to eat. So we hear you,” said Gary Petill, Director of Food and Nutritional Services at San Diego Unified School District. “We’re going to continue to work with you. We’re going to continue the Halal Chicken Drumsticks next year!”

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The Idea Behind the Chicken

For the 2015 school year, a chicken strutted up and down the campus of Crawford High School every Wednesday and Friday. Although the suit is funny, the idea behind the chicken is very serious: healthy school meals for every student.  

“We have the most diverse community in City Heights alone. Different people want different types of food,” said Gary Petill, Director of Food and Nutritional Services at San Diego Unified School District.

For many students in City Heights, school lunches may be the only nutrient-rich meal they eat all day, especially those whose families cannot afford to send them to school with a homemade lunch. With food options that some cultures cannot eat, many students go hungry, affecting their ability to focus in class and participate in afterschool activities.

“It seems reasonable,” said Petill, “I understand people want to preserve their culture.”

Through Mid-City CAN, students formed a Food Justice Momentum Team campaign to emphasize healthy and culturally appropriate foods in schools. Their solution: Halal chicken. Halal is an Islamic term that designates food – usually meat – and its preparation as permissible for Muslims to eat. Although this religious reference can make some uncomfortable, students want to let the community know that this campaign benefits everyone, regardless of religion or culture.

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Voice of San Diego writes about Mid-City CAN

Earlier this year, the San Diego Unified school board applauded Mid-City CAN for its efforts to bring local and organic produce to local schools. Mid-City CAN has successfully pushed for schools to offer food that meets the various needs of students, such as those who desire halal foods.

In addition, Mid-City CAN has successfully advocated for free bus passes for students, and it’s hoping to expand the program county-wide.

As for Pruitt, the lessons she’s learned from working with the organization will guide her philanthropic and advocacy work going forward. “My experience working with Mid-City CAN has opened my eyes to the immense challenges faced by members of underserved populations and the institutional barriers that make it extremely difficult to overcome these challenges,” she says. “This has both opened my heart and changed my perspective on local government priorities.”

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City Heights Stands Up to SANDAG, Demands Public Input on Tax Increase

At a rally on April 26, City Heights residents and members of the Quality of Life coalition called on the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) to prioritize mass transit projects before it asks voters to support a raise in the county sales tax. The coalition represents more than 20 community-based, regional organizations and 150,000 San Diego residents.

Community leaders urged SANDAG to prioritize funding for projects that promote clean air, better transit, good jobs, and no-cost youth bus passes.

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Leaders Pledge to Fight for Youth Bus Passes

Tears streaming down her face, she looked out at the crowd. “We have a single income household. I have to choose between paying bills, buying groceries, and buying bus passes for my kids,” said Iliana Pacheco, mother of two high school students in City Heights. Her oldest son used the free Youth Opportunity Pass through Mid-City Community Advocacy Network in order to stay on the football, baseball, and track teams.

“If he didn’t have the bus pass, he wouldn’t be able to go to all of the practices and participate in school functions. My son even used the bus pass to go to his homecoming dance and ASB ball. It kept him off the streets, out of trouble, and home safe when I couldn’t get him after school,” said Pacheco. Unfortunately, Pacheco’s son lost his bus pass when his wallet was stolen, and he hasn’t been able to replace it. Now, he cannot go to practice.

This story was echoed by many people at the “Get on the Bus” meeting at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church on November 12. The idea was to raise awareness of the lack of transportation for students and ask leaders to pledge their help. Partners in this effort include: Mid-City CAN, Justice Overcoming Boundaries, The Cleveland National Forest Foundation, Youth Activists for Change, the MAAC Project, SEIU-USWW, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, the North Bay Organizing project, Genesis, Gameliel of California, the National Gameliel Network, Urban Habitat, Partnership for the Advancement of new Americans, Clairemont Lutheran Church, and Capital Region Organizing Project. These organizations gathered from around the county to hear these stories and give their support.

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School Discipline Called Into Question

School discipline recently grabbed national attention when a cell phone video surfaced showing a white male police officer shove a female student of color, flipping her over in her desk, then dragging the student across the classroom floor with considerable force.

“There is no justification whatsoever for treating a child like this,” said Victoria Middleton, Executive director for the South Carolina branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Regardless of the reason for the officer’s actions, such egregious use of force against young people who are sitting in their classrooms is outrageous. School should be a place to learn and grow, not a place to be brutalized.”

This issue was taken up multiple times at the 2015 Equity Summit in Los Angeles, leading to discussion on how effective punishment is in schools. Alan Obregon and Phuong Pham attended the summit with Mid City Community Advocacy Network’s Peace Promotion Momentum Team. The two students attend Crawford Law Academy and are active advocates for Restorative Justice: an alternative to the current school justice system.

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