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Councilman helps youth in Oak Park

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On Wednesday, City Councilman Jay Schenirer launched WayUp Sacramento, a community development initiative aimed at helping Sacramento’s youth live healthier and prepare for successful careers. The first stages of the program are set to be implemented in Oak Park by the end of this year.

Schenirer held a conference on Wednesday to debut the program at the Effort/Oak Park Community Center, 3415 Martin Luther King Blvd.

WayUp has been in development for 10 months, however Schenirer said that the ideas behind the project have been with him for much longer.

“I’ve been doing community work forever,” he said. “I also believe that all kids should have the same opportunities that my kids have.”

WayUp consists of five youth-oriented programs: WaySmart, WayFit, WayFresh, WaytoWork, and WayHome.

WaySmart is an educational initiative that exposes children to potential health-care careers. The initiative includes field trips to hospitals, volunteer opportunities, and internships.

Schenirer said he is focusing on training students to work in health-care careers because of forthcoming job opportunities at Sacramento’s UC Davis Medical Center.

“UC Davis just signed a deal with BGI (Beijing Genomics Institute), the largest DNA sequencing company in the world. This will create many jobs in the medical fields,” he said.

WaytoWork is the step beyond education that is aimed at helping students get internships and pursue careers in health care by guaranteeing positions through collaboration with medical facilities.

And medical education may inadvertently improve another problem: hospital space.

Schenirer described overcrowded emergency rooms that are the result of a high percentage of the population not having health insurance. WayFit aims to change this by providing all of the Oak Park youth with yearly checkups.

“Having access to medical care is crucial,” Barbara Kronic of the Sacramento City Unified School District said. “By bringing medical exams, we can guarantee better success for these kids.”

Healthy living is also being promoted through WayFresh, a grassroots development of community gardens to promote healthy and sustainable eating habits by educating young people on the benefits of gardening.

“I want people to see the community gardens within nine months,” Schenirer said.

Schenirer is currently trying to purchase an abandoned Coca-Cola factory on Martin Luther King Boulevard in hope of renovating it and turning it into a tool library that will rent out gardening equipment, and building a facility for garden education.

WayHome involves purchasing dilapidated properties and converting them to affordable and livable homes that, according to Schenirer, will cost less to buy than many properties in the area cost to rent.

The project has so far accumulated roughly $800,000 from corporations and individuals who have donated. Furthermore, 27 vacant Oak Park lots have been donated for garden space.

“We’re sort of building the airplane as it’s going down the runway,” Schenirer said.

“The city has got some challenges, but we are trying to start (in Oak Park) and then build outside and institutionalize the movement,” he said.  

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