In the current installments of Youth Voices, we are implementing a new curriculum that asks the students, "What would you do to improve your community?"
Students are embarking on a community project in which they will investigate, document, and advocate for a neighborhood cause. It's a new approach, but one that still provides an opportunity for the students to build their media literacy skills, and create and collect stories as they explore and advance their community cause.
Some of the causes identified by the students from the Los Angeles River Schooll (LARS) include: improving the accessibility and environmental and community gathering features on the L.A. Riverfront; the extension of the L.A. River bike path; making San Fernando Road more pedestrian and bike friendly; and re-imagining some of the empty lots in the neighborhoods.
Recently several community members visited the Youth Voices classes at LARS to share their experiences, insights, and current projects. Kevin Mulcahy and Damian Robledo, from RAC Design Build, shared information about their current proposal to save and revitalize the Riverside/Figueroa Bridge and turn it into a park, or LandBridge. This could include the extension of the bike path, as well as connect the neighboring communities through new green space.
Accompanying them was Cecilia Dominguez from Elysian Valley, a long-time resident and community activist that has much to share with the students regarding the necessity and benefits of working collaboratively with community members. Alisa Smith from Glassell Park was also present, to contribute her experience as President of the Glassell Park Improvement Association, and as a former member of the Neighborhood Council. Ruth Gallardo, who is currently interning with the Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR), also made herself available to talk with the students about issues surrounding the L.A. River.
The visiting community members provided the students with a wonderful opportunity to see and learn from their experiences and be inspired by their work. It was important for them to see how a proposal, like that of the LandBridge, develops and what type of challenges it can face, while at the same time learn the importance of seeking out and working with community members to gain insight and support.
As the students broke out into their teams, they were each joined by Kevin, Damian, Cecilia, Alisa, and Ruth, who listened to their ideas and provided some guidance and encouragement.
Over the next few weeks the students will fine tune their causes and begin investigating and documenting them, all the while working with these and other community members and experts to substantiate and support their causes.