Creating personal maps is one of the first activities we do in Youth Voices. We asked the students at Mountain View High School to identify the places they spend time with friends, or places that have meaning to them as well as other key locations, people, and things. This begins the process of thinking critically about their neighborhood along with initiating a creative freedom to express ideas true to their experiences. The maps provide a visual narrative of their city and a possible vision for the future. To see more of their work click HERE or use #kcetyv on Twitter and Instagram.
Drawing my own map was something that awakened my sense of neighborhood. On a day-to-day basis I don't really think of my neighborhood in such a large sense. It's there and I appreciate it but making my map opened my eyes, and now I appreciate everything that I get to experience on a day-to-day basis.
The first thing I drew on my map was my school, Mountain View High School, a place where I spend most of my time at. It is where I have had the opportunity to grow significantly as a person, and it is the center of my community.
If there's one place in my community that I would like to see changed it is my high school. The school is continuously improving, although it still suffers through many problems that plague it. The largest problem is the large disparity in academic performance between those at the top, and those at the bottom. Although this is an issue that can be seen at any school, at mine it is more profound, as many of these students have the potential to achieve so much, they just need a support system that they're not getting. Not every student who needs the extra support is receiving it, which creates a large disparity at our school of those who have the resources, and those who don't.
When delving into places in my community one that always stands out is the Valley Mall, as it is filled with color, and a sense of community. It is our main street filled with many small stores, that each have their own identity. The Valley Mall is a unique place that is bound by no constraints, as each store has the freedom to express itself.
A place in El Monte that is always quiet is the El Monte Library. It is a place where people come to get some work done, which for many is hard to do at their home for various reasons. This serves as a regional community center for those in the area. A place we can all go to spend some good time reading a book, or even taking a class to improve yourself.
A great place to hang out is Starbucks, which serves as the de-facto meeting place for those in the vicinity. This is one of the few areas where you can be drinking a Frappuccino and enjoying your time with your friends.
Somewhere where people come together for a shared activity is at our parks. The one where I usually spend my time is Zamora Park. This is a place where one can get away from everything that is in our homes, and have the opportunity to just have a good time. The stress from life can be forgotten, and you can just play basketball with some friends until you have to go home.
A person that defines my neighborhood is the Elotero, or someone who sells corn on a cob to those in the community. He comes over with his car, ringing his horn to let those in the community know that he is here. Eloteros are very common in Hispanic neighborhoods as they come to sell delicious food that we love, making for an excellent mid-day snack.
A great place to eat in my neighborhood is at my neighbor's house. She makes a living selling tacos, burritos, and tamales to those in the community on Fridays. This is somewhere where those in the neighborhood go to hang out, and a have a delicious meal at the same time.
My community is filled of places, and people like these, which shows us the diversity one can find in El Monte. This is an incredibly diverse city, somewhere where you're not bound by constraints and you have the freedom to find yourself.