Youth want to shape the world, especially teens! Teen service and leadership are vital to building a healthy community and a better world – when our youth thrive, the community thrives! For more than 80 years, Camp Fire has been providing opportunities for young people to shape their world through community service, leadership, and personal growth. Camp Fire’s Teens in Action (TIA) and Leadership Programs are a powerful resource, providing the opportunity for youth to get involved and develop character qualities needed to become effective and engaged citizens now.
Through our service-learning framework, teens learn to identify community needs, decide what issues they want to advocate for, then take action to make a difference in their communities.

In recent months, Santa Maria has seen an increasing amount of homicides, gang activity, vandalism, and other incidents of violence. Jazmin Garcia, Camp Fire Youth Development Specialist, shares, “We believe that in order for youth to steer clear from involvement in negative activities, we need to proactively engage them in positive activities in order to draw their focus, give them a voice, and empower them to impact their communities in positive ways.”

Several Teens in Action groups meet in Camp Fire’s Historical Cabin located in Buena Vista Park, near Santa Maria High School and the Good Samaritan Shelter. Unfortunately Buena Vista Park has become known as “West Park” for some locals and is branded with a bad reputation.

As patrons of this family park, 25 Teens in Action high school students decided to focus their service project on changing this image. They have titled their project SOP: Save Our Park. Together, they have created, planned and scheduled a series of themed events.

Three in the series of ten SOP events have already taken place: “Art Expression Day”, “Nature and Camping Day”, and “Reading for Fun Day” were enjoyed by youth as they walked through the park on their way home from school. The teen-focused activities will continue to be held after school on the second Monday each month, drawing youth participation with a variety of activities within that day’s chosen theme.

Through their actions, the youth aim to make the park more family friendly. These young people are giving other children and youth the opportunity to engage in positive activities at every SOP event as well as discouraging violence simply by their enduring presence.

Every detail of the SOP projects are designed by the TIA participants with their leader, Jazmin Garcia, who is there to help and advocate for them where needed. The SOP project is proof-positive that youth can – and do – shape their world! At each SOP event, the TIA teens are already seeing these activities reach their peers, engaging them in something positive. Through their own continued involvement,

this group of teens hope to get even more young people involved in positive activities within their community. These young people are finding their Spark – and that Spark is spreading throughout Buena Vista Park.