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Urban Institute encompassed many of our youth programming – and the issues directly affecting our students. Safe Streets, urban beautification, police partnerships, and a large-scale mosaic project gave our students agency in their own community.

In the late 90’s and early 00’s, Mission Graduates (then St. John’s Educational Threshold Center) began its own neighborhood beautification efforts through our Urban ArtWORKS program. Students came together, with the help of artist Gary Carlos, to create a series of amazing mosaics that surround the Mission Graduates office.

Students a part of Urban Institute surveyed the neighborhood and found liquor stores, dry cleaners and thrift shops, but no parks. Working with the Recreation and Park Department’s Open Space Committee, this youth advocacy project won $200,000. The next year they did the same thing, and won another $200,000 towards a safe space for kids to play. The third year they won $100,000. The following year, State Sen. Carole Migden secured $1.5 million from state open space funds, bringing the kids’ total to $2 million.

They tried buying a few vacant lots in the neighborhood, but couldn’t compete against housing developers in the red-hot real estate market. Eyeing a parking lot on Hoff street, the Kid Power team placed another bid. The developer learned he was competing against neighborhood kids who wanted a park and backed out, allowing the Recreation and Park Department to purchase the property on behalf of the Mission kids. Working with Recreation and Park staff, the kids helped design the park, held community meetings and even picked the name.

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