Members of the Mar Vista Family Center’s By Youth For Youth program recently joined with the Friends of the Ballona Wetlands and other volunteers to place over 100 plants in a garden along Ballona Creek near the family center’s facility in Del Rey.

The Planting Day event included plants native to the region, purchased as part of a grant for three partners: the Mar Vista Family Center, Friends of Ballona Wetlands and Ballona Creek Renaissance. Lisa Fimiani, executive director of the Friends, said the grant and the project plans had been in the works for nearly three years.

The Friends of Ballona and Ballona Creek Renaissance have partnered with the Mar Vista Family Center on the long-term education and restoration project along the creek, adjacent to the center grounds, Fimiani said.

Through a grant from the Earth Island Institute on behalf of the Wetlands Recovery Project Community Wetland Restoration Grants Program, the three partners started the project by bringing youths into the Ballona Wetlands for educational tours and restoration projects, she said. The effort is in preparation for the intended Ballona Creek Restoration and Stewardship Project along the Creek.

The three project partners were joined by two newcomers to the neighborhood, Dr. Eric Strauss from Loyola Marymount University and the Center for Urban Resilience and Ecological Solutions (CURES), and Dr. Richard Shope, CURES community science project liaison to the Youth Science Alliance effort to engage high school students in urban ecology research and stewardship.

The Youth Science Alliance also brought 18 high school student summer interns from three different communities near the Ballona Watershed to participate in the event. The interns were preparing for the WATERS (Watershed Awareness Training for Ecological Research and Stewardship) project and have been learning how to apply urban ecology research and informal science education techniques in order to engage younger students in community science projects throughout Los Angeles County, Fimiani said.

They participated in various activities during the planting event, including using binoculars to identify birds along Ballona Creek, listening to birdsongs using bioacoustics equipment, looking at Ballona Creek water samples through microscopes, and discussing urban ecology concepts related to the watershed, Fimiani said.

The Mar Vista Family Center works to provide low-income families with quality early childhood education, youth enrichment, and educational tools to create positive change in their lives and their community.

The By Youth For Youth program focuses on the center’s self-empowerment and personal responsibility philosophies, guiding youth to become leaders in their own lives, as well as in the lives of their families and their communities.