AURORA SALDIVAR and BRENDA R. RINCON/Coachella Uninc
COACHELLA – Three years ago Jose Rodriguez was more likely to be found vandalizing neighborhoods rather than cleaning one up.
But on Monday’s Day of Action, organized by the Clinton Foundation and led by Chelsea Clinton, Rodriguez was one of approximately 100 volunteers who participated in the beautification of one block of Avenida Las Palmas in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.
Rodriguez, 18, said he began to care about his community when he stopped “hanging out with the wrong crowd” and joined the Boys & Girls Club in nearby Mecca.
“I really love that we were able to guide him in a different direction,” said Trinidad Arredondo, a youth mentor at the club. “When we provide an opportunity to help, Jose is here and fully engaged…a lot of the time we don’t’ provide these avenues for young people to participate.”
Young people definitely made their presence felt at the Day of Action, which kicked off the third annual Clinton Foundation Health Matters Conference. The Clinton Foundation has hosted eight Day of Action events in various locations since 2002.
Rodriguez hopes the Day of Action in Coachella will inspire youth to take pride in their neighborhoods. “I think youth seeing all the work that went into getting this street cleaned, they will think twice about vandalism,” said Rodriguez, who is now a Boys & Girls Club employee.
“Everyone is getting their hands dirty”
Coachella resident Kate Sheridan, 18, spent the day helping the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition install the landscape and expand the driveway of one of the homes on Avenida Las Palmas.
“You go to the other side of the city and everybody is out shopping, older people, ‘snowbirds,’ and then you come here and everyone is getting their hands dirty,” said Sheridan, who volunteered alongside her husband, Patrick Sheridan, 20. “It’s really cool.”
Youth from throughout the Coachella Valley and across the nation showed up to lend a hand.
“I would probably be at home playing an instrument, sleeping or reading,” said Peyton Brown, 13, a student on winter break from John Glenn Middle School in La Quinta. “Everyone is here working hard. With their yards clean, it will give (the residents) a better place to relax.”
The First Tee, a Florida-based junior golf organization brought 22 youth from throughout the country to attend the Health Matters and Healthy Habits conferences this week in La Quinta. The students arrived one day early to participate in the Day of Action.
“We like to volunteer and help out in communities,” said Alyssa Rosas, 18, a student from Joliet, Illinois. “What we like to do is not only teach kids the game of golf but life skills, what they need to do to become successful.”
“We are going to make it a better place”
Volunteering at the Day of Action was the reward for the winners of an essay contest on the importance of volunteerism at Valley View Elementary School in Coachella.
“We are here because we won the contest, but we are having a lot of fun helping out,” said Ashley Ayala, 11.
The students raked leaves and planted flowers alongside their teachers and other community volunteers, getting an up close look of a community in action.
“When a group of people come together to help each other, it warms your heart,” said Jasmin Reyes, 11.
Yadira Solis, 12, added, “Sooner or later, our kids are going to live here and our grandchildren. We are going to have to it make it a better place.”
Additional Day of Action photographs by AURORA SALDIVAR