Blum Summer Field Internship | 2017
San Ysidro

During the summer of 2017, interns of the Cross-Border Community Station in San Ysidro worked closely with a group of community leaders to identify and advance projects along three tracks that align with our partner’s vision to organize and empower residents in San Ysidro and South San Diego to take an active role in their communities by engaging them in the civic, sustainability, and quality of life issues affecting our region (from

CBI and the Blum Summer Field Internship have been fortunate to count on support from community promotoras in the time that we’ve worked with Casa Familiar. In San Ysidro, promotoras affiliated with Casa dedicate time and energy to efforts that range from facilitating sessions of the community-based disease management workshop known as Tomando control de mi salud (translation: Taking Control of my Health), to coordinating transitional housing programs provided by Casa, to teaching free exercise classes at different locations in the community, to advocating for the development of necessary improvements to public works (such as the construction of a sidewalk on the road between the principal residential section of the community and the local High School that was established in 2002). Promotoras in San Ysidro are actively involved in efforts to build a better community, all the while they are caring for family members in a matriarchal role, taking night classes to earn a GED, and/or working a part-time job. It has been inspiring for all involved in CBI’s programming in San Ysidro with Casa Familiar to have the opportunity to collaborate with the women who take on this role in the community.

Promotoras de Casa Familiar, Graduates of the 2017 Resident Leadership Academy, interns and staff of the 2017 Field Internship at Wild Willow Farm and Education Center.

Elizabeth Hensley C., Mellon Bridge Staff / CBI Field Coordinator
Andrew Sturm, CBI Graduate Fellow / Field Coordinator
Professor Fonna Forman, Political Science
Professor Teddy Cruz, Visual Arts
2017 Visiting Undergradaute Alumni:
Francis Yu, UCSD Urban Studies and Planning, Communications
Ethan Ma, UCSD Urban Studies and Planning
Nicholas Locke, UCSD Human Biology, Global Health minor


Following an initial period of ethnographic research, the 2017 San Ysidro team worked with instructors, Casa Familiar leadership and community members to identify project areas:

I. Community nutrition and sustainability:
Who was involved:
UCSD affiliates: Sara Lucero , Nicholas Locke, Francis Yu, Elizabeth HC
Community partners: Trinidad Herrera, Ana Chiquete, Elsa Escalante, Tiernan Seaver, 2017 RLA Egresadas (Casa Familiar); Cat Henning, Tanya Raz, Daniela Calvario, Marya Nash (Wild Willow Farm and Education Center)

Resident Leadership Academy graduates, interns and promotoras learning about vermiculture at Wild Willow Farm and Education Center, during a workshop on composting.

The arm of the 2017 program edition that focused on supplementing community nutrition and sustainability initiatives engaged in activities along two tracks:

1. One line of action involved fomenting a relationship between Casa Familiar promotoras and Wild Willow Farm and Education Center through the realization of two workshops, which considered different aspects of cultivating food: composting and container gardening. Sarina Vega, Community Development Assistant at Casa Familiar during summer 2017, played a crucial role in facilitating the initial connection with Wild Willow.

Damiana Calvario initiates the theoretical portion of the composting workshop, held at Wild Willow on August 9, 2017

The first of these two workshops considered the practical basics of making compost in a limited space. It took place on-site at Wild Willow Farm and Education Center, in the Tijuana River Valley on August 9th. The second, which considered container gardening, also making reference to late summer crops, took place in the patio the Casa Familiar Rec Center, where a series of garden boxes (constructed by the 2016 intern team) are located.

In the patio of the San Ysidro Community and Rec Center, Damiana and Marya assist RLA graduates with the construction of a water-saving design of containers for growing food plants.

2. The second line of action to foment links between community nutrition and sustainability in San Ysidro was spearheaded by Sara Lucero (UCSD Microbiology and Anthropology, Global Health minor).

Trinidad Herrera adds rice noodles to her spring roll, as Sara speaks about a proposed agenda for nutrition education in San Ysidro

Through conversations with promotoras and Resident Leadership Academy graduates, Sara Lucero developed and proposed a possible structure to link nutrition programming and food cultivation through cooking classes. An outline for the proposed “Mission for Nutrition,” in her words, follows:
A. Emphasize that nutrition is important. Provide knowledge on how to eat healthy, how different foods affect our bodies. Do this through nutrition classes.
B. Now apply knowledge of nutrition and health to fun and easy recipes that the whole family can do. Do this through cooking classes.
C. When people understand how to cook and use fresh produce, they see how food is made. Now they want to grow vegetables in a sustainable way, to get them fresher and more accessible. Do this through gardening and sustainability classes.

Read more about Sara Lucero’s Mission for Nutrition here.

II. Housing (in)security and access to educational resources
Who was involved:
UCSD Affiliates: Ashley Duong, Jahaziel Aguilera, Jorge Arana, Andrew Sturm, Teddy Cruz
Community Partners: David Flores, Sarina Vega, Mireya Hernandez, Ivonne Rojas, Tiernan Seaver, Ignacio Gómez, Estela Flores

Here, the 2017 interns proceeded along two branches:

1. The first considered housing insecurity in San Ysidro as a sense to give perspective on daily life in the border community, and was developed through a collaboration between Ashley Duong (UCI Literary Journalism + Philosophy) and Jahaziel Aguilera (UCSD Computer Science). Through interviews with Casa staff and community membersl, Ashley and Jahaziel, produce(d) a journalistic piece based on research, documenting, examining and exploring the lives of people at the border through personal narratives, looking at the specific obstacles of people facing housing insecurity at the border, that would not only aid the development of the Living Rooms but also give a voice to the people.
The final report that Ashley and Jahaziel co-produced as a result of their research efforts really speaks for itself. See their report here.

A model of the Living Rooms at the Border complex.

2. The second line of investigation proposed future partnership between Casa Familiar, CBI, and UCSD Department of Education Studies, and was headed by Jorge Arana (UCSD Literature, Education Studies minor).
Through conversations with community promotoras, the project aimed to identify community needs that could be addressed through University presence in Living Rooms at the Border, making reference to challenges that community youth have faced in the process of applying for university and in transitioning away from home at the start of their college careers.
In his final report, Jorge presents an initial outline toward structuring the propose space.
See his report here.

III. Transportation justice and air quality initiatives
Who was involved:
UCSD Affiliates: Cynthia Frausto, Anika Ullah, Elizabeth HC,
Community Partners: David Flores, Elsa Escalante, Maria Cervantes, Manuela Casteñeda (Casa Familiar); Jason Wells (San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce); Rudy López, Guillermo Cornejo, Aneth Flores (San Ysidro Air Quality Community Steering Commmittee); Dr. Aldo Rodríguez (San Ysidro Health Center); Dr. Penelope Jenny Quintana (San Ysidro Air Quality and Border Traffic Study); Juan Antonio Ramírez (Circulate San Diego); Héctor Espinoza (Sweetwater School District)

This project area, likewise, developed along two tracks:

A scene from the documentary co-produced by Anika Ullah, Javier Martínez, Kenji Bennett, and others.

1. One of the 2017 projects along this track was proposed by Anika Ullah, soon after the June 2017 Air Quality and Border Traffic study website unveiling. Anika developed a collaborative video documentary, to gather community perspectives about the issue of air quality in San Ysidro, and its associated health impacts. A narrative arc for the documentary, which features community promotoras as narrators and protagonists, emerged from the fieldwork, interviews, and production activities engaged in by Anika and her team throughout the internship.

Trinidad Herrera, Maricela Tellez and Elsa Escalante accompany Anika and Javier Martínez to speak with an audience of UCSD students and San Ysidro community members, following a soft screening of the documentary at the FRONT in San Ysidro on September 25, 2017.

The final report produced by Anika is available here.

2. Cynthia Frausto advanced a protect initiated by the promotoras with support from Casa Familiar to raise public awareness about the dangers for local high school students walking between San Ysidro High School and their homes in San Ysidro along Otay Mesa Road.
Elsa Escalante walks to the side of Otay Mesa Road under construction, summer 2017.

Otay Mesa Road had been built along a space carved into the wall of a steep hill in the early 20th century, providing a connection between San Ysidro, Brown Field and the ranches of Otay Mesa. It was conceived of as a route to support the movement of motorized vehicles across considerable distances, and predates the development of the residential subdivisions that now branch off of the road. The establishment of Otay Mesa Road took place decades prior to the siting of San Ysidro High School, which opened to community youth in 2002, on the mesa where the old Otay Mesa Road is cut by State Route 905 (which continues along the path established by the old Otay Mesa Road toward Brown Field). The configuration of the roadway between the hillside and the edge of the canyon in Northeastern San Ysidro included little to no hard shoulder.

Once San Ysidro High School was built and opened to the public, it became apparent that the roadway connecting the principal residential neighborhood of San Ysidro to the location of the high school was no longer adequate, in terms of its typology, for the kinds of usage that would be necessitated by the presence of the school and the newly-built housing subdivisions adjacent to Otay Mesa Road.

Over the course of the summer internship, through interview conversations with a variety of actors, Cynthia worked to construct a timeline of events associated with a long-term project that will reconfigure Otay Mesa Road to support safe pedestrian usage, considering the changes in adjacent land use over the last 15 or so years.

The report encapsulating Cynthia’s research is available here.


An image of the flyer prepared to promote the Sin Límites community gathering on August 24th, 2017

The 2017 internship in San Ysidro culminated in a presentation of intern research at the site of Casa Familiar’s Living Rooms at the Border housing projects on W. Hall Ave. in San Ysidro. The presentations were given in the context of a SIN LÍMITES event, which sought community input about programming to take place in Casa Patio, one element of the Living Rooms complex that accommodates multiple use.

Architect Teddy Cruz shares an overview of the planned architectural complex with community members at the start of the evening.

Following Teddy’s introductory presentation, Cynthia and Anika facilitate an ice-breaker activity with community members seated at a table to the side of the old Iglesia Monte Carmelo building (which will be restored as part of Living Rooms at the Border).

Working with small architectural maquettes of Casa Patio, community members plan the spatial layout for a proposed concert activity.

Following dinner, the evening transitions to a presentation of the students’ summer research

Jahaziel and Ashley exchange ideas with residents about the panorama of housing security in San Ysidro, as part of a presentation on their summer research.

For more information, please see the 2017 BSFI San Ysidro Final Report.