Honored for advocacy

Terry Stanley (from left), Angeli Hernandez and Leslie Renteria were part of the Mid-City CAN Youth Council group honored May 7 at the American Planning Association awards in Balboa Park.Terry Stanley (from left), Angeli Hernandez and Leslie Renteria were part of the Mid-City CAN Youth Council group honored May 7 at the American Planning Association awards in Balboa Park.Terry Stanley (from left), Angeli Hernandez and Leslie Renteria were part of the Mid-City CAN Youth Council group honored May 7 at the American Planning Association awards in Balboa Park.Terry Stanley (from left), Angeli Hernandez and Leslie Renteria were part of the Mid-City CAN Youth Council group honored May 7 at the American Planning Association awards in Balboa Park.

Terry Stanley (from left), Angeli Hernandez and Leslie Renteria were part of the Mid-City CAN Youth Council group honored May 7 at the American Planning Association awards in Balboa Park.Terry Stanley (from left), Angeli Hernandez and Leslie Renteria were part of the Mid-City CAN Youth Council group honored May 7 at the American Planning Association awards in Balboa Park.Terry Stanley (from left), Angeli Hernandez and Leslie Renteria were part of the Mid-City CAN Youth Council group honored May 7 at the American Planning Association awards in Balboa Park.Terry Stanley (from left), Angeli Hernandez and Leslie Renteria were part of the Mid-City CAN Youth Council group honored May 7 at the American Planning Association awards in Balboa Park.

Their skate park cleared its final bureaucratic hurdle in April. And now City Heights youths have won an award for their efforts.

The San Diego chapter of the American Planning Association has given the Mid-City CAN Youth Council its award for best grassroots initiative.

The youths campaigned for a skate park in their community. Their efforts included lobbying their elected officials, reaching out to skeptical neighbors and even helping with the design.

APA board member Nick Ferracone, who volunteered his expertise to the youth group, said the teens handled the slow and complicated city planning process with more grace than most adults.

“They had ups and downs. They found some barriers,” said Ferracone, who was not a judge for the APA awards. “They believed in the process, they believed in the project and they prevailed.”

Terry Stanley, 20, said the award is a change of pace for the skaters.

“They’re not being judged and being criticized,” Stanley said. “They’re being thanked for the work that they’ve done.”

The APA brings together professionals involved with the city planning process.

Many of the youths working on the skate park campaign say they now want to become planners themselves.

The new skate facility is set for Park de la Cruz at Dwight and 38th streets. A state grant will cover $1.46 million of the cost, with $250,000 coming from the nonprofit Tony Hawk Foundation and $40,000 coming from the city. The city is scheduled to break ground on the City Heights skate park late this year and complete the project in 2017.

Ferracone was impressed by the group’s positive energy and commitment.

“To their credit, they never complained to me once,” he said.

The process wasn’t easy – or quick.

“A number of young people attended a lot of meetings,” Ferracone said. “A select few, who were most involved, attended more meetings than most adults in San Diego, more public meetings, more political meetings than most adults in San Diego will ever attend in their lives.”

Erick Hernandez, a sophomore at Hoover High School, said the experience was rewarding.

“It’s something big, knowing that our work is being recognized,” Erick said.

That work included about four years of advocacy.

“At first… I was angry,” he said. “I found out about Mid-City CAN, and I found out all the things I can do with my voice.”