The Nueva Vista and Beach Flats Community Centers in Santa Cruz provide an after school program with a focus on community involvement. Local youth spend three hours after school doing homework and hands on learning activities with help from volunteers and Youth Coordinator Edgar Landeros. Community members can donate their time to touter children or teach them about a specialized subject. By sharing their expertise, like baking or swimming, the community provides an educational experience that the youth wouldn’t otherwise get exposure to. In the end, these skills and wisdom enable kids to better navigate the their own career path and foster a respect for the diversity that makes up this unique city.
This video about the Community Center was made for a halftime presentation for the Santa Cruz Derby Girls, who made a financial contribution to the center.
I had never interviewed kids before. The experience was also new to many of them, which made for a nonlinear Q and A session that promoted sincere answers. As with any interview, the most important thing was to get them talking. They did, and were kind enough to open the doors of the Center, and their little world, to the rest of the community. This receptiveness makes it an easy place to volunteer at, so call Edgar at 831-423-5747 and stop by.
A group of women known as the Leveelie Ladies clean up the San Lorenzo river mouth twice a week. They tally every piece of trash and use this data to excite citizens and politicians to support the restoration of a levy that is both a rich ecosystem and beautiful public space.
The most important journalistic aspect of this video for me was to ensure I did not portray the relationship between the homless population and Leveelies as a battle. No single group is responsible for the river debris, nor its cleanup. The Ladies encourage everyone to join regardless of class or level of commitment. Every little conversation they have with the myriad of people who use the Levy slowly changes the atmosphere. Restoring the river takes more than cleaning up debris; it takes getting the entire community’s respect and appreciation. Their attitude of humility towards service has proven to me that only together can we create a space for the entire community to use.
The voice of the Dragon Slayers Animal Therapy Program director Joseph Rivers will send you back in time. His loquacious and annunciated speech are a reflection of his own upbringing and confidence in his work which gives people with disabilities an alternative method to bring themselves up.
The program is free to anyone who commits to a regiment that they and Joseph agree upon. Animals are paired with students based upon their disability. Homing pidgins, giant tortoises, and mini chickens play crucial roles in developing the skills of students. Parrots provide alternative speakers to speech therapists. The back of a bull serves as a platform to practice stability, while its personality teaches confidence. Decades of work and feedback have shown Joseph that giving the students a choice to be there and choose the animal they wish to work with fosters a committed relationship. The results have been extraordinary, and you can read them here: http://josefriversdragonslayers.org
Everything, including the animals themselves, is donated to Joseph. Even the landscaping company who maintains the grounds returns for free every week because they believe in the good work being done there. The program always needs volunteers. You must be at least 21, a maturity requirement, and commit to some amount of time every week. You can reach the Dragon Slayers at: 831-688-6699