Summer Nights at La Cumbre Bring Santa Barbara Youth to Celebrate the Holidays

With glorious sunshine, cheering children and the mingled smell of sea breeze and freshly cut grass, it’s finally summer in Santa Barbara.

Students and families looking for free entertainment during the break can enjoy a safe and fun environment with “Summer Nights” events taking place at La Cumbre High School every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evening until July 15 .

“It’s a four-year project,” said La Cumbre manager Bradley Brock. “We know that the research and the evidence is pretty clear that if we can bring enrichment activities to them, then we’re providing a safe environment for Westside families.”

A joint effort between the city, the Santa Barbara Unified School District, and the Department of Parks and Recreation, “Summer Nights” focuses on providing local children and their families with activities and resources during the summer season, in the goal of providing a healthy and supervised environment. outlet for young people.

Noah Roldan (center) triumphantly holds the Xbox he won during the Wednesday, June 8 raffle at La Cumbre High School in Santa Barbara, Calif. Three prizes were given out at the event, including a staff t-shirt and a McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams gift card, with the game console being the grand prize. | 1 credit

“What I noticed is that it’s a tourist town. If you don’t have youth services, they just hang around. And unfortunately, there’s a small percentage of young people who get caught up doing things they shouldn’t be doing, said Ismael Huerta, a Santa Barbara Unified School District youth outreach worker and originator of the “Summer Nights” program. “It’s a good way to provide services for them and their families to become more involved and engaged.”

In addition to youth outreach, Huerta also leads a young men’s group at Dos Pueblos High School. After listening to his students and noticing a lack of positive youth activities, he was inspired to organize the events.

Coming from Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles, Huerta himself was influenced by the resources available to this generation. The neighborhood was prone to gang violence and over-policing and was considered by the city to be a high-risk neighborhood. Huerta was inspired by a program called “Summer Night Lights” which had a positive effect on residents. The program has been running for 15 years now, providing meals and activities to youth and families in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.

Here in Santa Barbara, Huerta began advocating for a similar program since 2009. He met with some pushback, he said, after initially pitching the idea of ​​holding events at colleges in Santa Barbara with students competing against each other.

“It was surprising that people didn’t think it was doable,” he said. After a few years, Huerta brought the idea back to city council in late 2018 and received support from council members and parks and recreation staff.

After successful meetings with city officials and the school district, the first “Summer Nights” were scheduled for 2020 but were stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The break allowed organizers to plan for the return of the program and set activities for the first six weeks of summer 2022.

“It’s not just about our young people, it’s about their parents and grandparents and bringing everyone together,” said council member Eric Friedman, who along with council member Oscar Gutierrez was l an early supporter of “Summer Nights”.

Zumba instructor Josette Tkacik gave a class at the Summer Nights event, encouraging everyone to participate on Wednesday, June 8 at La Cumbre Junior High School in Santa Barbara, CA. Normally held at the Carrillo Recreation Center, the Zumba class made an appearance at the youth event. | 1 credit

The Wednesday, June 8 launch event included bouncy houses, a DJ, free meals from the Santa Barbara Unified School District Food Services, Kona Ice snow cones, Zumba, and an array of games and sports. A raffle was also held, with one lucky winner taking home an Xbox.

Each week will have a new theme, and another Xbox will be raffled off on July 15. Later events will include a mural project in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Arts Alliance, self-defense classes, and more.

“I encourage members of the community to come forward like Ismael and encourage us to do more things like this that will benefit the community as a whole and especially our youth at this time,” the member said. Gutierrez advice.

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