By Kristina Houck
To improve the quality of life for residents of Solana Beach’s Eden Gardens community, a local foundation and university are teaming up to conduct a needs assessment.
In partnership with La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation, researchers at the National Latino Research Center at Cal State San Marcos will interview residents and stakeholders to learn how to improve community resources. The community needs assessment was announced during an informational meeting hosted by the foundation March 19 at North Coast Fellowship in Solana Beach.
“We’re happy to have you here because we can’t make change unless we have more people involved,” said Manny Aguilar, president and board chairman of the foundation. “We have to be the owners of our future and our family’s future.”
Aguilar and other concerned citizens founded the organization nearly three years ago to suppress escalating drug and gang violence, as well as encourage local youth to make positive choices and improve resources for residents. In that time, the foundation has held a community forum, created a community garden and launched a youth leadership camp, among other accomplishments.
The National Latino Research Center aims to promote scientific and applied research, training and the exchange of information that contribute to the knowledge and understanding of the growing U.S. Latino population. Underwritten by Santa Fe Christian Schools, the study will identify and prioritize community needs and opportunities in education, civic engagement and social capital.
Like his grandparents who emigrated from Mexico in the early 1900s, Aguilar noted the more than 30 people at the meeting were there for one common goal: to have a better life.
“That’s what everybody wants in this group for every one of their families — for their kids, for their grandkids,” he said. “That’s why we’re here.”
After conducting interviews and hosting focus groups, researchers at National Latino Research Center will analyze the information and write a report. The report will be presented to stakeholders and community members in the summer, Aguilar said.
“The city is here to help,” said Councilman Mike Nichols at the end of the meeting. Deputy Mayor Lesa Heebner was also in attendance. “We’re excited about being a part of this.”
Representatives from various community organizations also attended the meeting. The Sand Dollar Foundation, a local organization that helps children in need, presented Aguilar with $10,000 so approximately 50 children can attend the foundation’s youth leadership camp this summer.
“We’re here as a community,” Aguilar said. “We have all these pieces available. Let’s make it work.”
The National Latino Research Center will host its first focus group at 6 p.m. April 16 at North Coast Fellowship, 940 Genevieve St., Solana Beach.
“If you have problems and complaints, bring them to the table,” Aguilar said. “Let’s find a positive solution. We’re here to find solutions.”
For more information about La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation, visit lceg.org.
For more information about the National Latino Research Center, visit www.csusm.edu/nlrc/