Mapping Through a Personal Lens

Carla from the L.A. Leadership Academy holds up her personal map
Carla from the L.A. Leadership Academy holds up her personal map

For the map building workshop, Youth Voices student producers at The L.A. River School and at The L.A. Leadership Academy were asked to examine their neighborhoods from a highly personal lens and create their own hand drawn maps.

First students were asked to identify ten hotspots in their neighborhood. A hotspot may be a person, place, or object of interest, that collectively begins to form the student's narrative of their community. The list below provided them with ideas on what could be one of their hotspots.

  • 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 (not your friends or family)
  • 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

This thought process encouraged the students to search their memories and experiences for key hotspots in their community. The next step was to transfer those memories and experiences to a piece of paper, where they began to build their map around these markers.

Enrique and Greg from The L.A. River School draw their maps.jpg

Greg works on the first layer of his personal map

It was interesting to find that some of the students were quick to identify hotspots outside of their neighborhoods -- shopping centers, the beach or a university. Places that are not part of their daily routine, but that hold a unique memory for them because it connects them to their friends, family, or future.

It also directs us to the question: why aren't there similar places in their own community that foster opportunities for gatherings, shopping, or higher education? As we dig deeper, hopefully we will be able to pin-point how the development of an L.A. Riverfront District in Northeast Los Angeles can provide some of these desired services and recreation.

On a second layer, a clear acetate transparency, the students annotated their maps, providing context for the ten locations they selected. Why do you like to hang out at this place? What scares you about this area? Why is this bike path important to me?

Richard adds descriptions to the second layer of his personal map

Detail of Rudy's Personal Map

The second layer transforms the map making the student's experiences and narrative jump to life. The slideshows below animates this process.

The Los Angeles River School Personal Maps

The Los Angeles Leadership Academy Personal Maps


This process continues the personal exploration of the student's neighborhood and their place within that community.

Angie and Lyric from The L.A. Leadership Academy share their maps

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