Apart from a school board scandal and being named one of the most boring cities in the country, Chula Vista isn’t typically a major focus of local news.

That’s why we wanted to focus our efforts on a News Literacy program aimed at serving Chula Vistans.

To cap off our first series of News Literacy workshops, we’re hosting Let’s Talk Chula Vista with outgoing Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox and new City Manager Gary Halbert. The event is free and will be held at the South Branch library on July 29 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. We’ll discuss the future of the city and a major concern raised by News Literacy participants: street infrastructure and safety.

We weren’t sure what to expect when we started this effort. We’ve made some strides, and hit some bumps that provide definite opportunities for learning. Here’s where we’re at:

News deserts are real.

Access to modern technology is necessary for gathering news and information about your community. That’s why it’s so troubling that parents from the Castle Park community of Chula Vista have raised concerns that many residents there don’t own computers or have access to them.

We initially thought we’d train residents to be citizen journalists and to use a blog they could take ownership of. But when we found out the majority of our participants didn’t even have an email address, we realized the need to start with the basics.

We’ve since set up a Facebook page that has become a bilingual hub for parents to post about the major concerns they have for their community:

And at the end of the workshop series, we’ll provide participants with refurbished computers from Computers 2 SD Kids so they can continue to get their news online.

Residents are ready and willing to be engaged.

Much to our surprise, residents have not been shy in sharing their concerns. Now that we’ve locked down what they are most worried about, we’re brainstorming community-driven solutions.

While residents have been connected to services through other organizations, there have been some gaps. The parents we work with want to be as involved with their kids’ lives as possible. But they say there’ve been roadblocks to getting involved at their kids’ schools.

News Literacy parents were especially interested in getting their kids into sports and involved in after-school activities. But with limited incomes, parents need affordable options. We’ve since connected them to Aqua Fun and Fit, free summer swim classes sponsored by the Kaiser Foundation and held at local pools.

Being heard is a milestone in itself.

Participants have had a direct impact on their community by sharing their experiences and concerns, which led to increased reporting on Chula Vista.

Bianca Bruno

Bianca Bruno is Voice of San Diego's News Literacy program manager. She works with Chula Vista residents, promoting equal access to news through civic...

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