Boyle Heights resident Fanny Ortiz shares her concerns with meeting attendants.

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Photos by Daisy Escorcia

Street vending and educational opportunities for Latino youth were some of the most talked about issues last Saturday at the quarterly Boyle Heights Beat community meeting.

The smell of café de olla filled the room at the Boyle Heights Technology Youth Center, where community members had the chance to meet the reporting team and share issues or story ideas they’d like to see featured in the bilingual student-run newspaper. A small but attentive crowd engaged in meaningful discussions and praised youth reporters for their work.

“Here at Boyle Heights Beat our goal is to provide an opportunity for community members to share their voice,” said youth reporter Jennifer López, a junior at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet, before introducing the other youth reporters.

Youth reporter Kimberly Parada said she felt compelled to write a story on the informal economy in the last issue of Boyle Heights Beat because “[street vending] has been happening not only in Boyle Heights, but in Los Angeles.”

However, homeowner Joaquín Castellanos argued that street vending was an increasing problem in the neighborhood and that he wished Boyle Heights Beat would have provided a more balanced story on the issue. Others in attendance defended street vendors. “If we had a sustainable economy, nobody would have to make their own jobs,” said Boyle Heights resident Fanny Ortiz.

Ana Ramírez, a parent of a BHB youth reporter, shared her experiences on how the Boyle Heights Beat has influenced local youth. “I have seen my daughter become part of the community,” she said. “She’s more aware of issues happening to other people.”

Others discussed some of the challenges faced by youth pursuing a higher education, with one resident speaking about how hard it is for low-income students to afford college. Michelle Salinas, a Senior at UCLA, added: “It’s difficult to navigate yourself in college when you’re the first in your family [to go].”

Other issues raised by community members included WI-FI access, accessibility for the disabled and community-police relations.

“I’m glad we came to this meeting,” said Boyle Heights resident Kevin Paz. “There are some issues here I wasn’t even aware of.”

Boyle Heights Beat is a project of USC Annenberg in partnership with Hoy Newspaper. With support by The California Endowment and USC Good Neighbors, 28,000 copies of Boyle Heights Beat are distributed to homes, business and organizations in the neighborhood.

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