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SANTA ANA : The Very Picture of Health

America Venegas, 15, ignored the chaos of a crowded waiting room at a county-run children’s clinic and calmly proceeded to paint a bright yellow sun on the wall.

“I really like doing this,” the Valley High School sophomore said as she dipped her brush into a dish of paint. “I’ve never painted in front of this many people before, but it’s really kind of cool.”

America was one of 25 high school students who painted colorful murals Tuesday on the walls of the waiting room at the County Health Care Agency clinic at 1725 W. 17th St. Their project was part of Youth Services Day, which recognizes young people who are doing things each day to bring about positive change in their communities.

The students, from Saddleback, Valley, Santa Ana, Century, Orange, El Modena, Mater Dei and Cornelia Connely high schools, are members of the Orange County Youth Volunteer Council.

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“We think it’s really important to get involved now because if we become aware of what needs to be done now, we’ll do more as adults,” said Julia Beak, a senior from El Modena High School.

Beak, 18, said the group decided to paint the mural when they heard about how the paint in the clinic’s waiting room was wearing off.

“Since there are always a lot of children in this waiting room, we wanted to make it a fun and happy place for them,” Beak said. “We hope that when they look at the mural, they won’t be as scared to get a shot or see the doctor. We want to take their minds off of the fear.”

Actor Gedde Watanabe, who appears in the NBC television series “Down Home,” spoke to the students before they began the project about the benefits of community service.

Watanabe, 35, recalled his poverty-stricken days as a struggling actor in New York City and San Francisco and said he often had to turn to community organizations for assistance.

“These organizations helped me to earn back my self-respect,” he said. “Because of that, I’ve always volunteered, and I hope you will do the same.”

The project was sponsored by the Volunteer Center of Greater Orange County and StarServe, a national community service program.


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