Meet the Ambassadors

In need of some inspiration and hope for the future? Look no further than the San Lorenzo Creekway youth ambassadors. Diana Venegas and Lorenzo Gonzalez, both high school students in San Lorenzo, took time out of their summer vacation to work as youth ambassadors spreading the word and engaging their community in the San Lorenzo Creekway planning process. In the challenging context of COVID-19, Diana and Lorenzo used their social media savvy and relationships in the community to boost input and spread the word about what the Creekway project could mean for the future. 

The San Lorenzo Creekway is a multi-use trail project led by the Hayward Area Recreation District (HARD) that will eventually run all the way from the Bay Trail in San Lorenzo to Don Castro Recreation Area in Castro Valley. “The direct route of transit in of itself is amazing,” says Diana, “having a place where it’s safer than walking on the street, parents have kids who can walk to school and have a direct route and peace of mind is sincerely amazing.”

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Because the planning team is applying for a state grant to build the trail, it was important for robust community engagement to happen this summer, despite challenges due to the COVID-19 shelter-in-place. As HARD worked to spread the word about the online survey and virtual meetings, it became evident that traditional outreach methods weren’t reaching local students—even though the project would directly benefit young people traveling to local schools. A group of local partners, including Bike East Bay, jumped into action to develop a paid youth ambassador program: enter Lorenzo and Diana! Thanks to their hard work and advocacy, high school students had a big voice in crafting the vision for the San Lorenzo Creekway. 

“Our work was getting the word and the survey out,” says Lorenzo, “getting more people involved…including teenagers and young people who use the creekway the most, to get their take on the whole idea.” To do this, Lorenzo and Diana made a dedicated Instagram with creative posts in both English and Spanish. Because they each go to different area high schools, they used their connections with student clubs and leaders to share out the posts and spread the word. They also walked around their neighborhoods, hanging flyers and talking to people at nearby parks and trails.

As a result of youth input, a team of partners led by Alameda County Public Health are pursuing funding to set up a student-led bike share program based at local high schools along with bike education and community programs. There is also energy from the San Lorenzo High School Druids Club and native plant nursery to help create native gardens as part of the Creekway project. Other opportunities for youth leadership include potential public art pieces and volunteer stewardship programming. Lorenzo and Diana have gotten the ball rolling on developing creative ideas for the future in partnership with San Lorenzo and Arroyo High Schools, and they are excited to pass the baton.

What’s coming next for these two advocates? Lorenzo is starting his senior year of high school and is stepping into his role as captain of the cross country team. Diana is off to college to study psychology and maybe double major. “It’s been really amazing knowing this has an impact on the community long after I’m gone to college,” she says. Diana and Lorenzo did fantastic work this summer, and are a great example of what hope and vision can accomplish for the future of our shared spaces. 

Do you want to get involved in projects like the San Lorenzo Creekway? Sign up for Eden Area updates today.