Approximately 75 participants took part in the Environmental Warrior Project that took place on April 30, in the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community.

The Environmental Warrior Project Paints Over Graffiti

By Angela Willeford
Au-Authm Action News

On April 30, volunteers from throughout the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community could be seen painting over Community houses that have been defaced by ugly graffiti and tagging, doing their part for the Environmental Warrior Project.

In December of last year, a group of Salt River teens and preteens from the Young River People’s Council and the Salt River Advisory Council for Children and Youth (SRACCY) Planning Squad attended the Native Youth Leadership Academy conference in San Diego. There they were inspired to come up with a plan for an environmental project to be implemented in their Community.

Both groups came up with a list of tribulations that affect the youth of the Community. The top five on both groups’ lists were alcohol abuse, drug abuse, gangs, teen pregnancy and graffiti. Both groups unknowingly picked the same environmental project: to help clean up graffiti. So both groups decided to come back to the Community and collaborate on their Environmental Warrior project together.

Planning began in February, and when word got out that there was going to be a graffiti-cleanup project in the Community, other groups wanted to help. First, Salt River Police Department Officer Anslem Flores, who is an advisor for the SRPD Explorers, wanted to join in because the Explorers know that graffiti is an issue and they want to become part of the solution to the graffiti problem.

The next group to be interested in the Environmental Warrior Project was the SRPMIC Recreation Department, which for the past couple of years has adopted the house at Camelback and Country Club through the Young Eagles program.

Kevin Riding-In, recreation coordinator I, along with 75 other participants, took part in the Environmental Warrior paint-a-thon. Riding-In said since his group (Young Eagles) has been persistent on repainting each time it has been tagged, the house at Country Club and Camelback has not been tagged as much.

Community member Dillon Thomas, a student at Salt River High School, said, “It feels right,” about painting over the vandalism. He said, “At high school, a lot of people do it (referring to writing on walls or public property).”

SRPD Acting Chief Karl Auerbach said, “This is a great example of Community spirit. We are all pitching in and working together, and it is just beautiful. Pitching in makes a difference and is a good example for the kids.”

The Environmental Warrior paint-a-thon was collective of four different groups: the SRACCY Youth Planning Squad, the Recreation Department, SRPD Explorers and the Salt River Youth Council. All four groups came together and used more than 16 five-gallon cans of paint.

Connie Carlisle would like to thank the youth of the four lead groups, SRACCY Youth Planning Squad, Young River People’s Council, SRPD Explorers and the Recreation Department Teen Program. The dedicated youth were Devanie Duwyenie, Hosteen Smith, Mavi Leonard, Lloyd Lewis, Aaron Rivers, Antonio Briones, Lorraine Juan, Jessica Ruiz, Arial Smith and Efrain Corona. The lead staff advisors were Connie Carlisle, Stephanie Manning, Kevin Makil, Officer Anslem Flores, Detective Matthew Hilsabeck, Rob Hickem, Kevin Riding-In, Renee Thomas, Kandis Balderrama, Anita Rivers and Eldra Kootswatewa. Thank you to SRACCY for funding the project, the Youth Services and Recreation departments for providing transportation, Public Works for the cleanup around areas painted and the Salt River Fire Department for cooking.

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