OCEANSIDE — “Friendsgiving” was celebrated by about 75 Oceanside and Vista teens that might not otherwise have met up as friends on Nov. 22.
Students, ages 12 to 18, got together who live in different neighborhoods that are known to have rival gang members.
They also all participate in Visa Community Clinic REACH afterschool programs.
This is the fourth year for the event.
It is held annually to integrate teens from “rival neighborhoods,” and show students they can celebrate and give thanks together, and discover they have things in common.
“Too often Vista and Oceanside kids are kept separately or taught, implicitly or explicitly, to distrust individuals from other areas as a part of the pride they carry for their particular neighborhood,” Kesha Dorsey Spoor, Vista Community Clinic program manager, said.
The get together helps reduce distrust between teens from the Eastside neighborhood, Libby Lake neighborhood, and Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista.
This year’s Friendsgiving was held at Joe Balderrama Recreation Center in Oceanside. Students were invited to give thanks, and asked to bring a potluck dish to share.
The city of Oceanside also stepped up to supply Thanksgiving favorites like turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie and tamales.
To start off the gathering each teen said why they are thankful.
Then food was eaten, and afterwards teens played a team trivia game and outdoor sports. Teams included students from different neighborhoods, and allowed new-made friends to compete together.
Spoor said the event helps teens develop connections, be more open-minded, and consider new possibilities, which are smart steps for every middle school and high school student.
“While some of our students have no qualms with youth from other neighborhoods, some of them are simply shy,” Spoor said. “We develop life skills for them to feel comfortable meeting others, being themselves, and reminding them that it is a big world, filled with people who are mostly on their team.”
In addition to the benefits teens reap by getting to know peers from a different side of town, Margery Pierce, city neighborhood services director, said the get together also allows city staff and police to connect with students through shared time together.
“Developing relationships with our youth is critical in responding to the needs of the community,” Pierce said.
The city of Oceanside and Vista Community Clinic also organize other events for area teens that likewise share the goal of unification.