El Cajon Residents Step Up to Help Their Community

It’s graduation season, but one recent ceremony didn’t feature caps and gowns. These graduates completed a different kind of education – one that teaches them how to make their neighborhoods healthier and safer.

Thirteen El Cajon residents graduated from the El Cajon Residential Leadership Academy last night.

The Academy is a program funded by the County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA), giving residents valuable lessons in leadership to create positive changes in their community.

“The Residential Leadership Academy helps empower and engage residents to make positive changes in their neighborhoods, a goal of the County’s Live Well, San Diego! initiative,” said Pam Smith, deputy director, HHSA. “The vision of this leadership group is inspiring and a great example of community-driven leadership in east county.”

The program started in March. Participants attended 14 sessions focusing on community leadership and advocacy, crime prevention and safety, healthy food systems and food access.

They got hands on experience, taking on several community improvement projects including:

  • Enhancing the walkability of El Cajon
  • Improving mass transit and bus stops
  • Providing support and training for refugees and immigrants to improve community involvement; and
  • Beautification through public art

These go-getters are already onto their next project to get rid of graffiti in the community.

The Academy is a partnership between HHSA, the El Cajon Collaborative, Home Start, Community Health Improvement Partners, California Department of Health’s Network for a Healthy California and the United States Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact