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Mapping Community: Laura T.

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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.

My name is Laura T., and when I first began drawing my map, I started at my home. My house is located on an actual corner and is relatively nearby to the schools I attended and the places I frequented and still frequent. After drawing my starting point, I included a place that holds a special place in my heart, the Xin Bao Restaurant located on Garvey. I have memories from far back before I was school age. The restaurant serves authentic Cantonese food (despite the Mandarin name) and has very friendly staff. It has been ages since my family has been there because my mother said the original chef left, but I can recall the layout of the establishment and the constantly sticky tables. Occasionally, I long for the flavors from Xin Bao. Because the Xin Bao Restaurant has composed a large part of my family outings, I made sure that the restaurant was included on my map.

Another establishment that I included on my map is the El Monte Boys and Girls Club, that can be found next to Payne Elementary School. Within my community, the El Monte Boys and Girls Club is a place that I would like to see changed. The services that the establishment provided were beneficial to my community, but sadly, restrictions were put on the club. I used to volunteer during the Saturday dinner services with my high school's Key Club, and from personal observations, I can positively say that the building is in need of a facelift. The paint and ceiling is not in the best condition and the kitchen and entertainment supplies need to be repaired. I believe that in order to match the good that was done in the Boys and Girls Club, the building needs to be in shape to provide even more communal greatness.

Because most of my time is spent at school, Mountain View High School (MVHS) was the third building I drew on my map. The MVHS campus is a place with great colors. From a past campus beautification project, all doors were painted purple and gold to enhance our school spirit. Unlike the other high schools in the El Monte Union High School District, Mountain View has visible varying shades of green as opposed to dull grays of concrete. There are healthy trees and flowers from the entrance to the end of the field. Other colors of the rainbow can be found in the posters promoting events or supporting students taped to walls outside and in buildings. Occasionally, thanks to our school's ASB team, splashes of color can be seen on the pep stand during themed weeks or before spiritive events.

Besides MVHS, I also attended Twin Lakes Elementary School on Gilman Rd. This school has a deep personal meaning to me because Twin Lakes was the school that I felt I fit in the most. I transferred to Twin Lakes during second grade and didn't socialize much at the beginning. But, I quickly made great friends and had supportive teachers. Throughout my elementary years, I was blessed with nice teachers who sculpted and praised my original writing (which eventually led to my recommendation to the GATE program for "creativity").

Near my home, is the Norwood Public Library, a place that I frequent during the summer. The Norwood Public Library on Peck Rd. is a place that is always quiet. It serves its purpose as a library without being boring. The library usually has people independently working, but there are also other events that are held inside.

The first layer of Laura's map marks the ten locations that are important to her in her community.  The map at the top of the page adds a second layer with description and experiences.

The Grace T. Black Auditorium next to El Monte High School is also an important building in El Monte. The auditorium is the host to many events held in El Monte, such as the Tamalada event and the Christmas-themed Holiday House in December. I have had the opportunity to volunteer at a couple events hosted at the auditorium, so I can say that many memories are made there (specifically, by school-age children, in my experience).

In addition to the Grace T. Black Auditorium, many people gather and make memories at Zamora Park. Zamora Park is mostly clean and is conveniently located near homes and apartments. There are playgrounds available to use and cart food readily available for sale. Hanging out with friends and family at Zamora Park is great because it's clean, free, and provides space for sports or picnics.

The next place I added on my map is Legg Lake. Legg Lake is one of the places where the MVHS cross country team has a meet. All schools in the El Monte League participate in the meet on an 8-shaped route around the lake. Participants and supporters join together to cheer each other on during the meet. Legg Lake is also the setting to other activities in the community, such as personal events (like picnics).

If I had to choose a person to sum up my neighborhood, I would pick my father. I believe he defines my neighborhood because my neighbors are mainly composed of the quiet elderly. Everyone in my neighborhood tends to keep to themselves, but there is a sense of friendship and unity that stems from passing by interactions every now and then.

People unlike my father in particular ways are not the type of people I am interested in meeting. I am afraid of crossing paths with close-minded people who are unwilling to hear other perspectives or consider other point of views. It is not that I have encountered many bigoted people in El Monte, but in general, meeting and having to interact with someone who refuses to consider other's opinions is tiring. It is tiring to be silenced by someone who thinks his/ her opinion is more important than your own.

Big D's, which can be found on Valley Blvd, was the second to final location to be added to my map. Big D's is conveniently close to Mountain View and is within a student's budget, so it is a very popular joint for students. Typical fast food, such as cheeseburgers and animal fries, is served there. The taste of the burgers is reminiscent to In n Out, but prices are lower, so that is another factor that plays in its popularity.

The final location that I included on my map is Food 4 Less. I did so simply because I enjoy grocery shopping. Whenever my parents head out to the supermarket, I always tag along. I enjoy looking at the fresh produce sections within the stores and poking the variety of meats in the meat section. Food 4 Less is the most conveniently located supermarket to my home that my parents go to.

Laura uses her map to write her article.

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