By Camille Yost
Tustin Teens in Action is a community service group that encourages middle and high school students to engage with their community. They participate in city events such as Tustin Tiller Days, the Run with a Cop Carnival, and the Easter Egg Hunt. Tustin Teens in Action also volunteers at places like the senior center and the Southwest Community Center. This group of teenagers is led by Emily Perez, a City of Tustin Recreation Program Assistant. Perez explains, “The main goal of TTA is that the teens can reach out to their community and help them better as a unit. We work through Tustin Parks and Recreation and we have city events and opportunities for them to go out of their way and out of their comfort zone to meet patrons, citizens, and to develop a relationship with them where they usually wouldn’t.” She has been working with TTA since 2009 and was part of the “strong seven,” led by Karl Halili, a Tustin Parks and Recreation Committee Member and a THS Alumni. The “strong seven” were the very first TTA group members and they showed up to every single event and had a strong impact on the people they helped. Karl Halili was the preceding leader of TTA and he is the one who inspired Perez to seek leadership over the group.
“He was my role model through it all and, to this day, he works at city hall and he’s a coordinator there, so I always go to ask him for life advice or TTA advice because he ran the program and it’s just something that I hold a special place in my heart,” says Perez.
Tustin Teens in Action consists of group members and a board member. Tustin High’s Justine Padilla is the president of the group and an active member at every event. Padilla commented, “My sister was in TTA since she was in eighth grade and I always looked up to her so I always wanted to follow in her footsteps and be a part of the board. TTA did so much for her and I thought it would do so much for me as well.” She enjoys spending her time helping the seniors during Senior Tech Time and working with the children during the after school tutoring program. “Helping the kids is very eye opening for me—to be that role model to them because they don’t really have anyone else to look up to,” says Padilla.
Padilla would like to eventually follow in Perez’s footsteps in becoming a leader for TTA or working with Tustin Parks and Recreation. Ivonne Armas, a THS student, is the vice president of the group and like Padilla, is an active member in the organization. Armas has been with TTA for a year now and she admits, “I felt like I could handle the job of being the vice president. I just wanted to have that leadership position to be more involved with the group.” In addition to enjoying Senior Tech Time, Armas also takes pleasure in working with the middle school students and arranging the dances for them. She loves putting together the decorations, being on the dance floor, and even taking the responsibility of having authority over the teens to ensure their safety. Armas would also like to follow in Perez’s footsteps in working with Tustin Parks and Recreation. “I plan to attend a more local college,” she commented, “So if I am accepted to a local school, I will probably apply and continue to work with TTA because it is a great program. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of new people because it’s not just kids from Tustin High School, but also kids from Foothill and Beckman.”
In addition to Justine Padilla and Ivonne Armas, Tustin High’s Cynthia Pacheco is also a TTA Committee Board Member. This is her first year in TTA, yet she decided to tackle on the responsibility of becoming a board member. “Even though it was my first year I thought that I might as well give it a try because it was good experience for when I would actually have to be interviewed or have to apply for other leadership positions,” Pacheco states. The board members of TTA dedicate their time to help Emily maintain a strong organization of teens working together to help their community.
Each and every one of these TTA members all have the same goal of bettering their community through Tustin Teens in Action, under the assistance of Emily Perez. Applying for TTA doesn’t mean you have become a board member. Tustin High’s Angela Valladares is a member of TTA and says, “I was recruited into this organization by Cynthia and she explained to me what TTA is about and I love volunteering and helping my community.” If you are interested in becoming a member of Tustin Teens in Action and share the same love of bettering the city of Tustin, they are always open to recruiting new group members. You can find an application here or at the Columbus Tustin Activity Center. Not only will this program guarantee you community service hours for school and college applications, you will also gain the experience of working with others and meeting new people who will inspire you and teach you how to inspire others.