Teenagers lobby council for hoops
by Jon Mendelson
Apr 12, 2013 | 2542 views | 6 6 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
North School students Bianca Gutierrez (left) Jennifer Castellanos, Jake Hiltachk, Juan Mariscal and Anthony Johnson gathered at El Pescadero Park on Tuesday, April 9, to discuss their efforts to have the city build a basketball court at the park.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
North School students Bianca Gutierrez (left) Jennifer Castellanos, Jake Hiltachk, Juan Mariscal and Anthony Johnson gathered at El Pescadero Park on Tuesday, April 9, to discuss their efforts to have the city build a basketball court at the park. Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
slideshow
A group of North School students hope to have the city build a basketball court at El Pescadero Park, as seen on Tuesday, April 9.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
A group of North School students hope to have the city build a basketball court at El Pescadero Park, as seen on Tuesday, April 9. Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
slideshow
On April 2, Jo Hensen, an eighth-grade teacher at North School, gave a thumbs-up to four of her language arts students in Tracy City Hall.

They had just persuaded the City Council to tentatively approve building a basketball court in El Pescadero Park, about 200 yards west of the school at 2875 Holly Drive.

It was the second time in three weeks the teenagers had told the council about their idea to improve after-school activities in their northern Tracy neighborhood.

Although the project — with an estimated cost of $65,000 — must be formally approved by the City Council in June with the rest of the city’s capital improvement budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, Hensen was already ecstatic.

“It shows that they (the students) have a voice. It shows that their voice is heard,” she said. “I don’t want them to be passive citizens. I want them to speak up. They’re intelligent young adults.”

Hensen’s students began formulating the proposal after the teacher asked them in March what they liked about Tracy. She said the answers — which included “the exit sign” — were discouraging.

“I was stunned at first,” she said. “It’s one of those times you’re standing in front of the class and you don’t know what to do.”

After a night of thought, she decided to turn it into a learning opportunity, writing a letter to the City Council to ask if someone would speak to her class.

Mayor Pro Tem Michael Maciel visited about a week later, Hensen said, and he talked about activities offered by the city and suggested getting involved.

The students took it from there.

Asking for a basketball court was a natural choice, according to some of Hensen’s students who gathered in El Pescadero Park to discuss the project Tuesday, April 9.

Courts at the school are typically locked on weekends and after class, except for use by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tracy. The security is meant to prevent vandalism in what Hensen called a “rough neighborhood” around Kavanagh Avenue and Holly Drive.

Anthony Johnson, a 14-year-old, said basketball is a popular sport at the school, and the restrictions force students to either break the rules or walk 1.8 miles through unfamiliar neighborhoods to the nearest open court at Kenner Park, next to Jacobson Elementary School.

“We have a lot of basketball teams, and we always have to walk to Jacobson park to play,” he said. “There’s not a lot to do in Tracy.”

The class researched the cost and dimensions of a full-sized, two-hoop court and surveyed El Pescadero Park. They decided the north end of the central field would be the best location, Anthony said, because it would leave room for other activities.

Students collaborated on an essay to the city and sent several representatives to the March 19 and April 2 City Council meetings to state their case.

On April 2, Councilwoman Nancy Young and Councilman Charles Manne moved to put the court on the tentative capital improvement project list, and Maciel and Councilman Robert Rickman agreed. Mayor Brent Ives was absent.

Juan Mariscal, standing in the field he hopes will soon include a basketball court, smiled as he talked about the unexpected victory.

“We didn’t expect that they would listen to kids,” the 15-year-old said. “It makes us care more and (let us know) that we can go and tell them when we have problems.”

Anthony agreed.

“I didn’t imagine that we were going to be heard,” he said.

Several students said they would attend the council meeting when the project goes up for final approval, which has not yet been scheduled.

They hoped their experience would encourage others in Tracy to talk to city leaders about their concerns.

“If you never try, you’ll never know if you can make a change,” Juan said. “You might as well try.”

• Contact Jon Mendelson at 830-4231 or jmendelson@tracypress.com.
Comments
(6)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
sb2482
|
April 15, 2013
Congratulations to Jo Hensen for recognizing an opportunity to teach her students several lessons. They learned to do research, learned to put together a project plan, and research costs. They learned a valuable lesson about how city government works and how to work with that system in order to have the best chance at making their desire a reality.

Basketball courts in city parks are much better than the eyesore hoops on the streets outside many of the homes in Tracy.
Sneaky
|
April 13, 2013
I don't generally like seeing taxpayer money spent on some folks sports. People who like basketball should pay for their own place to play. Same for any other sport. Everyone else shouldn't be burdened with high taxes to pay for the hobby of any group of folks.

That said, at least maybe this will give the trailer trash types a reason not to put those portable basketball hoops all over the streets. That just looks ghetto.

ChrisRoberts
|
April 12, 2013
This is cool and all but what about a new SKATEPARK.

Statistics show that more kids skateboard and scooter than those who play little league baseball and basketball. We have tons of basketball courts in Tracy that are good and tons that are bad.

But in Tracy all the skate spots ARE BAD and the skatepark is horrible.

I seem to remember some students a few years ago trying to get a new skatepark, but the city didn't even wanna hear them out. The city would not even so much as designate them a site.

And don't believe lies from local politicians. Skateparks can be built on the cheap. http://www.skatepark.org/park-development/fundraising/2012/07/skateparks-under-100k/

ChrisRoberts
|
April 12, 2013
This link I provided shows you could build several skateparks for the same cost as the basketball courts will cost.

To hear the city short change the kids and say they don't have the money for better facilities for our local children is horrible! You gotta be kiddin'!
Johensel
|
April 14, 2013
When one approaches City Hall, one should have done all the possible research. When my students went to City Hall, they had surveyed the property, estimated the cost, and clearly defined the need. They did not go into City Hall with a demand. My students approached our city government with a request that was backed with data. I think it was well received because they were well prepared.
mommyofthree
|
April 12, 2013
I think it is great that the kids are getting pumped up and heard like that. That is awesome..... However, Kinda makes me nervous. That place is already poisoned with morons who rob kids out there and there has been a shooting or two. I can totally see a shooting happening over a lame bb game.... unfortun.


We encourage readers to share online comments in this forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a space for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Comments that stray from the topic of the story or are found to contain abusive language are subject to removal at the Press’ discretion, and the writer responsible will be subject to being blocked from making further comments and have their past comments deleted. Readers may report inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at tpnews@tracypress.com.