Downtown Los Angeles Skyline

Building Healthy Communities: The Importance of Mentors

Val Zavala: And Karla if you had to recommend something or if you had the chance to talk to directly to policymakers that decide where resources go, what would you tell them? Where would they spend it and on what? What should they spend the money in?


Karla Ortiz : I would definitely say to spend it in lower income communities just because equity is always key to everything and not just that, but also I feel that as a young person you want to hear to hear somebody who's successful and powerful  say I believe in you and I really want to invest my time, not only time but also emotion and everything that they have into this young person because that's what you want to hear. You want to know that someone out there right, like a guardian angel is looking out for you and over watching and making sure that you're successful, making sure that you're going to prosper to something so much more. But if they just say 'oh I just invested in you and you know what I don't see a change, I don't see anything, then what is that going to tell me as a young person. It's going to tell me that you're only going to look for me to change, you're not going to help me grow long-term like sustainability. I'm going to make sure you're there with me and I would definitely tell these policymakers to invest more time and be patient because change doesn't happen overnight, it happens over years, over decades and just be patient and to definitely speak up and be here with us because I feel that silence is just another way of saying it's okay let things be as they are.


 Val Zavala: And it sounds like mentors were so important to young people, especially. Is that where we should put our money?


Lucy Herrera: I believe so, one of the biggest things if I was in front of a policy maker I would say Los Angeles needs a youth development department.  LA is one of the only large cities that doesn't have a youth development department, and I feel that if we were to establish a youth development department that would include mentors, that would include safe spaces for youth, that would include resources, that would include everything that they need in order to be successful.

Building Healthy Communities is a 10-year, one billion dollar initiative that hopes to transform 14 California Communities. It is bringing together residents, grassroots organizations, policy makers and others to work on an action plan to address health inequality.  Two local residents taking action are Lucy Herrera, of Boyle Height and Karla Ortiz of East LA. They discuss their work with local organizations and why policy makers should invest in youth.

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