In East Salinas, California small, grassroots organizations are leading big change in their community. And with 40% of the population between 0-19 years old, you can feel the future here. This community includes the densest census tracts in Monterey County and is comprised largely of immigrant farmworkers and their families. A history of social inequities have impeded quality of life there, and often limit or exclude youth from positive development opportunities. But a vibrant nonprofit ecosystem of small, grassroots organizations has emerged and is at the forefront of reclaiming the narrative and the destiny of the 93905 ZIP Code – the place they call home.

A new website,, was created to celebrate the people and programs that are empowering and inspiring youth in East Salinas. Written by journalist Rob Waters and photographed by Jay Dunn of The Salinas Californian, these stories highlight programs participating in the Salinas Youth Initiative, a place-based approach providing youth here with safe, academic and athletic enrichment opportunities, funded by the Packard Foundation in partnership with the Community Foundation for Monterey County.

I felt good because I helped solve the problem. –11-year-old Juan Luna

The initiative aims to increase and improve the availability of positive opportunities for children in Salinas through support to a cohort of youth-serving organizations. The initiative’s comprehensive investments in programs, people (leadership and staff), and places (safe, quality spaces for youth programming), are critical for the long-term development and sustainability of this ecosystem of small, grassroots groups that have built trust and respect with local residents, and deliver culturally competent programs and services

Initiative partners featured include:

  • CHISPA uses music to engage youth in learning how to play an instrument, but also builds their confidence and pride through performance.
  • El Camino Real Futbol League provides an opportunity for youth to compete in soccer while strengthening their academics and building their hope for a successful future.
  • Cesar Chavez Library has an after-school tutoring program that provides neighborhood youth a safe place to nurture a love of reading and access to local college students for homework assistance.
  • Gil Basketball Academy uses the fundamentals of basketball to engage youth ages 4-17 in learning the importance of healthy choices, discipline, academic success and perseverance.
  • Restorative Justice Partners teaches youth and adults conflict resolution skills to provide a healthy way to solve problems through dialogue and compassion.
  • Life Is For Everyone (LIFE) gives youth a space and role models to help with homework, build technology skills and access to future career possibilities.
  • Partners for Peace pairs youth with mentors to overcome potential barriers in their lives through self-management, goal setting and constructive problem-solving.