Graduating students of the Resident Leadership Academy celebrate spirit of community through local change

April 4, 2019
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VENTURA COUNTY — Sponsored by Ventura County Public Health (VCPH), the Ventura County RLA is a 10-session comprehensive curriculum that encourages community residents to reduce health disparities and inequities by encouraging healthy eating, physical activity and public safety through policy and environmental change. It provides tools and strategies to create healthier neighborhood environments and connect to local grassroots networks where residents can take ownership and leadership of community improvements and projects.

“At the end of the 10-sessions, RLA graduates are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to make sustainable community changes,” explained Claudia Castañeda, Community Services Coordinator of VCPH. “This current RLA group from Santa Paula has shown such commitment and dedication and I could not be more proud of them as they graduate from the program and begin their own Community Impact Project to help reduce smoking and environmental impacts of secondhand smoke in their Santa Paula Community.”

Upon graduation from the RLA program, the participants will work with local community partners to assess their neighborhoods, determine and prioritize needs, and implement a Community Improvement plan (CIP). RLA graduates are empowered to make healthy behavior changes, enhance their neighborhood environments, and create vibrant neighborhoods through policy, systems, and environmental changes that will help them reach their goals.

“As a group, we were already working in our community to collect and dispose of thousands of cigarette butts in our local parks,” said Maria Jimenez, current RLA graduate and Director of Poder Popular in Santa Paula. “The RLA provided us a pathway to make our efforts to promote a smoke free outdoor ordinance even more impactful. We are looking forward to taking this commitment towards reducing secondhand smoke in our community to the next level with our official RLA Community Impact Project.”

RLA training is available to any and all residents who are interested in learning how to work together to improve the health of their community.

“The RLA is a true investment in our community’s social capital, providing residents with the opportunity to build leadership capacity and create positive changes in their neighborhoods that influence health,” continued Castañeda. “The long-term plan involves empowerment of community members giving them the skills and tools to help in advocacy and policy development to create sustainable public health programs where they live.”

For information on RLA-initiated community improvement projects, or how you can get involved in a future RLA, contact ClaudiaJ.Castaneda@ventura.org

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