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About fifty people gathered at the Boyle Heights Technology Center last night to participate in a community meeting hosted by the bilingual community newspaper Boyle Heights Beat. The purpose of the meeting, the third of its kind, was to get community feedback on the paper, and give the community a chance to meet reporters, as well as bring up concerns and story ideas.

For half of the reporters, myself included, it was the first community meeting we had attended. Many of the high school students were both nervous and excited. This excitement intensified with the arrival of a camera crew from NBC Network news, who filmed the entire event and interviewed some of the student reporters.

Michelle Levander and Pedro Rojas, co-publishers of Boyle Heights Beat, opened the meeting by describing the intention of the journalism program and the goal of the paper to be “written for and by the community.”

Boyle Heights Beat (BHB) youth reporters introduced themselves and talked about stories they had written for the third issue, as well as new stories they are currently working on.

Sophomore Yazmin Nunez who has been with BHB since its beginning, described her latest published story on Teen Court and briefly spoke of her upcoming story on an L.A. River project called “Piggy Backyard.” Rosa Solache, a junior at Roosevelt and BHB veteran spoke of what she learned while writing her story on the new Los Angeles Unified School District food menu. Community members in attendance were impressed to hear about the increasing number of college applicants from Boyle Heights schools, a story written by Mendez Learning Center senior Emmanuel Bravo.

After the introductions, Ozzie Lopez, Director of the Boyle Heights Youth Technology Center, took a moment to thank the parents for supporting their children’s interest in journalism, and the reporters for being the voice of the community.

The introductions were followed by comments and questions from the audience, as well as story suggestions. Yolanda Gonzalez, a Boyle Heights property owner, congratulated all the student reporters, in particular the “extraordinary article “ Bravo High School junior Jennifer Lam wrote on the number of liquor stores in Boyle Heights. Gonzalez talked about how journalism can open minds, and stressed the importance of creating change by returning to your community after college. “You will make this change for all of us,“ she said, “as business people and activists.”

Community members congratulated reporters on their work, and expressed appreciation for their balanced reporting on tough issues such the changes Roosevelt High School has undergone in the last few years””a story written by Roosevelt senior Ricardo Ayala. Parents and residents echoed the desire for all kids to succeed, and stressed the need to emphasize the positive things at work in the community.

Boyle Heights Beat Online Editor Jessica Perez also introduced adult contributors in attendance and invited community members to participate in providing content for the bilingual websites.

Like promised, at the close of the meeting, a raffle was held. Community residents Maria Quintero and Maria Martinez each won a pair of tickets to the L.A. Dodgers.

Photos by Jonathan Olivares

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