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Photos by Art Torres

Leticia Salazar and a group of teenagers traversed down First Street in Boyle Heights last Saturday morning with brooms and dustpans in hand.

Usually, the teens’ weekends are for fun, but today, they were here to show they care about keeping their community clean.

“It’s our community, so it’s up to us. If we don’t keep it clean, we’re just going to be complaining but yet we aren’t doing anything to make a change,” said Salazar, program leader for the Ramon Garcia Recreation Center Teen Club and a resident of Boyle Heights.

Salazar and her group joined about 100 others who came out to clean their neighborhood’s streets at the second Boyle Heights Rising: Community Clean Up this year, an effort organized by community residents.

Carline Ortiz, 13, an eighth grader at Hollenbeck Middle School was one of several students helping along Salazar’s group. Ortiz said she wants to help keep her streets clean.

“Everyone should come together to help out the community and keep it clean and comfortable”¦so that everybody feels a part of it,” said Ortiz.

The clean up’s organizer, Amanda Mejia, 24, said she wanted to create a space for residents of Boyle Heights not only to clean up, but to also meet and connect with people who share the same concerns in the neighborhood.

“I know cleaning is not the best thing to do on a Saturday or Sunday or any day, but you come out here and you get to know who is in your community; you get to know your neighbors; you get to know people who are passionate about the same thing, they just want to improve Boyle Heights,” said Mejia.

Mejia’s first community clean up was in January, and since then, has picked up support through her Facebook page, Boyle Heights Rising. Through the page, Mejia asks local stores, organizations and politicians in Boyle Heights for any donations or support the events she puts on.

“My approach is, any little thing helps. If you can donate a box of gloves, that goes a long way. Because 200 gloves can reach 100 people to help clean up,” said Mejia.

Mejia is planning on having more sustainability resources for the next clean up, to educate the community on anything from recycling to gardening, without spending too much money on equipment.

To learn more about Boyle Heights Rising, join their group on Facebook at Boyle Heights Rising.

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