More than 150 Santa Ana residents gathered at two strategic planning workshops on Saturday to tell officials which issues they want the city to focus on in the next few years.

Uriel Ramirez

Much of the discussion centered on how best to improve public safety.

Many residents emphasized a need to invest more in opportunities for youth, like education, after-school programs and sports.

A group of mothers, who attend exercise classes from Latino Health Access, said their community needs safer streets and more open spaces for their children.

“We all should feel safe when we go out walking, knowing that nothing bad is going to happen,” said Guille Primero, a Santa Ana resident.

Guille Primero (Photo by: Miriam Lopez)

“Having more lighting on the streets will help,” she added.

City officials are in the middle of preparing a strategic plan, which will affect how the city invests its resources over the next five years.

At the forum, youths from KidWorks’ Youth Empowerment Network and Latino Health Access’ Community Organized Youth Recruiting for Empowerment interviewed 30 local residents about their vision for Santa Ana, issues they’d like to change and how that can be accomplished.

Jonathan Garcia from Youth Empowerment Network and Boys & Men of Color wants to see more recreation centers for youth.

“The issue in Santa Ana is that there is a lot of gangs, and those kids have needs,” said Garcia. “So I think that recreation centers can help them out.”

He added that youth can advocate for recreation centers and create petitions to send to council members.

Diana Segovia, a youth from Garden Grove, was invited to the workshop by her aunt, a Santa Ana resident. Diana wants to see more secure streets and more programs in kindergarten through high school that promote community involvement for youth.

Nelson Alonso (Photo by: Miriam Lopez)

Nelson Alonso, a Santa Ana Public Library youth, noted that a city presentation showed an emphasis on safety instead of education.

“I was looking at the five-year vision, and I kinda saw that they put eduction to the side versus putting safety,” Alonso said. “So I was thinking … that financially, and if they want [the] community to be safer, that probably means that they will put more money to the police versus putting that type of funding to get the community more educated.”

He added that if the community becomes more educated, it will be able to make smarter decisions and participate more.

Sandibel Ramirez and Zabdi Alvarez contributed reporting to this article.

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