OCEANSIDE — A vibrant community mural was unveiled at Libby Lake Park as the culmination of a one-year neighborhood beautification project on June 28.
Jimmy Figueroa, program supervisor for Vista Community Clinic Project REACH, said an underlying beauty of the project is it was spearheaded by teens from a neighborhood with gang problems, an area some have given up on.
Figueroa said teen community service has helped turn things around.
“They can make a difference, they can create change,” Figueroa said. “It plants a seed of innovation and hope.”
An $18,000 Oceanside Charitable Foundation grant supported the mural project, neighborhood cleanups and sprucing up the park. Councilman Chuck Lowery, who serves on the foundation’s board, said the outcome of a year’s work surpassed expectations.
The intention of the grant was to spark greater community involvement and create a sustainable program that would continue past a year.
Project REACH teens proposed the neighborhood beautification project as an extension of their routine weekly trash pickup.
Grant funds allowed them to add two large-item trash pickup days to cleanup efforts and involve the whole neighborhood. Residents were notified that they could leave unwanted furniture, appliances and other items curbside.
Figueroa said once adults saw the teens at work loading the dumpsters they spontaneously offered to join in and help. More than 100 pounds of trash were hauled away.
A mural was also added to the park restroom building. Figueroa said notices of a mural design contest were sent to area elementary, middle schools and high schools. He added word was also spread by REACH teens on Facebook and by word-of-mouth.
High school senior Alondra Ochoa, who grew up in the Libby Lake neighborhood and still lives in Oceanside, submitted the winning design.
Her detailed drawing of a graduate in cap and gown with a tear in her eye got its final coats of paint on Thursday.
Figueroa described the message of the mural that wraps around three sides of the building. “The design is a very intricate mural, there’s so much inside of it when you see it up close,” Figueroa said. “From a bigger perspective, it’s a girl who dreams about graduating from college, lives out that dream, gets a degree and comes back to the community to serve her neighborhood.”
Alondra Ochoa, 17, said she has never displayed her artwork, or considered selling it. She said she draws as a form of self-expression and includes herself in her pictures. She added color is important in her artwork.
Muralist Victor Ochoa (no relation to Alondra Ochoa), who has been wrapping bridges and buildings with his artwork for more than 40 years, mentored the teens through the project. He instructed them on transferring the design to the building, durable color choices and applying protective coating.
About 30 teens, as well as younger boys and girls, pitched in to power wash the building, scrape paint and create the mural. Adults also lent a hand in the community artwork, which took weeks to complete.
“We had to pressure wash the wall, it took two eight-hour days to scrape paint,” Figueroa said. “It was a lot of work.”
Alondra Ochoa said she is overwhelmed with the efforts to recreate her artwork to a bigger-than-life scale.
A dedication ceremony recognized the teens’ efforts to beatify their neighborhood and get others involved on Sunday, along with a party in the park. Overall more than 60 teens lent a hand in beautification efforts.
“I’ve heard from them they want to do more murals, and other things to the park,” Figueroa said. “If anyone is going to make it happen, it’s going to be them.
“They’re doing it for the community they love, and the younger generation.”
A plaque will be added to building that describes the project, and recognizes Alondra Ochoa and Project REACH 2015 teens.