Roadmap to La Comunidad: Boyle Heights & East Los Angeles

WELA YMCA YI Youth working on their maps

WELA YMCA Youth Institute, is part of the Building Healthy Communities (BHC) initiative funded by The California Endowment.Youth are exploring and investigating how the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) can empower and improve their local school communities.


The WELA YMCA Youth Institute members were asked to draw a personal map to their neighborhood or community. Students were given the opportunity to express their individual connection to their community through an artistic representation. Youth Institute members were encouraged to be as imaginative and free as possible with their drawings. This workshop was meant to connect the students' personal narrative to East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights; two neighborhoods with a rich culture and history.

Claudia working on her map entry
The workshop began with the students identifying and describing ten "Hot Spots" in their neighborhood or community to include in their map. A "Hot Spot" is a person or place in their individual neighborhood or community that holds a special and personal meaning.

The following is a list of the "Hot Spot" statements each student was asked to identify:
• A place (corner or other location) that you want to see changed (and why)
• A place that is no longer there (that has been replaced or destroyed)
• A place that has a deep personal meaning for or relation to you
• A place that you escape to
• A place that has "history"
• A great place to hang out
• A mentor or neighbor
• A person from the neighborhood that you see or relate to everyday
• A place where a group of people come together to participate in a shared activity.
• A person that defines your neighborhood for you
• A place or person that you are afraid to meet, cross paths with, relate to
• A great place to eat.
• A place where you find city government, civil workers, or law enforcement
• Your favorite street or alley
• Your favorite hangout

After getting their creative juices flowing, the students began to draw their maps. Once they drew their maps, on a transparent acetate sheet, the students annotated their personal narrative about the locations they chose to showcase. A few of the students mentioned the same, or similar, locations. Each story, however, was unique and personal. This exercise shows how everyone experiences the same community or environment in diverse ways. Below are a few examples of the work the students created:

The first layer of Claudias' neighborhood map.
Claudia Espinoza's map shows the diversity of Boyle Heights. She chose to depict the Breed Street Shul as her "place that has 'history' ". The Breed Street Shul is an Orthodox Jewish synagogue that was moved from Downtown Los Angeles to Boyle Heights in 1913. Boyle Heights was home to a large Jewish community from 1910 to 1950; a large Latino community now primarily populates Boyle Heights. The Shul is one of the many traces of Boyle Heights' rich history.

The first layer of Rickys' neighborhood map.
Ricky Ruiz chose Hollenbeck Park as a "place of deep personal meaning ". Ricky Ruiz enjoys the Hollenbeck Skate Park, in particular, as a spot where he can relax and skate. California Skate parks worked with The Rob Dyrdek Foundation and the City of Los Angeles to create this new "Safe Spot Skate Spot" skate plaza on December 18, 2009. The skate plaza is considered one of the premier skate plazas in the entire nation.

The first layer of Eddies' neighborhood map.
Eddie Gonzalez chose the East L.A. Civic Center and park as a "place where people come together to participate in a shared activity". Eddie particularly enjoys the Saturday morning Farmers Market. The East L.A. Civic Center, however, also does so much more. The Civic Center houses the East Los Angeles Courthouse, the East Los Angeles Police Station, East Los Angeles Library, and park. The Civic Center provides numerous events for families in the park such as weekly Saturday Farmers Markers, the Dia De Los Muertos Celebration on Nov. 2, and the Summer East L.A. ArtsFest. During the East L.A. ArtsFest, the park and civic center host a two-month long series of concerts, outdoor movies, art shows and events for the community.

The first layer of Daniels' neighborhood map.
Daniel Vazquez chose El Mariachi plaza as a "place where people come together to participate in a shared activity". El Mariachi Plaza is another cultural and historic site in Boyle Heights. El Mariachi Plaza is known for the mariachis who gather in the plaza to be hired to play. The plaza also holds its own Farmers Markets every Friday as well as other family friendly events. Daniel primarily enjoys the good food from the restaurants and vendors located in the plaza.

To see all of the students' maps and learn more about their community hotspots click here.

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