East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy

Teenage advocate for environmental changes in her community

The one thing that sets me apart from others is that I’m cooperative when working with people. It all started when I attended high school at East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy as a freshman. At that time I didn’t have friends and I was motivated to join clubs and school activities in order to make new friends. I was shy and insecure, and becoming involved in school activities was a change for me.

In order to participate in the activities, I had to learn to set aside my differences and work with others. Participating in extracurricular activities with others helped me improve my cooperation skills but if it weren’t for my neighborhood, I wouldn’t have chosen to involve myself in clubs at school.

My neighborhood has impacted my extracurricular activity because there aren’t many activities outside school in my neighborhood. The lack of activity motivated me to seek clubs within the school to participate in. If there were more programs or clubs available to the youth in the neighborhood, I would’ve attended them after school but I couldn’t figure out where they were or if they even existed. It should be easier for students to find activities to participate in throughout the city, but since so many buildings appear unoccupied or closed to the public, I assumed that none existed.

I suggest that city planners should improve the exterior of youth programs because the majority of the teens who live in the neighborhood may not be aware of the great opportunities that are open to them because the sight of excessive litter and appearance of old buildings makes them seem abandoned. This absence of healthy activities for youth leads to more vandalism and violence in the community. City planners should take action by updating the exteriors of buildings for youth activities by prohibiting tinted windows and inputting more trash cans to prevent the litter from overflowing onto the sidewalk. This will create a more welcoming environment to attract students.

The Latino heritage is a big part of my neighborhood and I see it every day in the murals, the food, the historical buildings, and the community. This has played an important role in my life because without it, I wouldn’t be who I am now. The neighborhood transformed my identity from a reserved teenage girl to an open-minded adult because I was surrounded by a variety of cultures that taught me to accept contrasting ideas.

Being open-minded is important because it allows me to work with others and make decisions together. Without cooperation, no improvements would be made toward the city. Therefore we need to provide visible access to programs for adolescents and ensure that they are aware of them so that, not only the youth but the city, can benefit from them.