Students at Roosevelt High School are using top-level mapping tools to show how social inequalities impact communities and affect residents’ health and wellness.

The Math, Science and Technology Magnet Academy at Roosevelt partnered with the Foundation, who donated computers, and Environmental Science Research Institute (ESRI), a Geographic Information Systems developer, to support students in their research.

Students spent 12 weeks researching topics, including school lunches, crime and homophobia–issues that affect them personally. Data was collected through student surveys and with help from various local agencies, experts and community organizations, and then mapped to show the disparities that exist between their neighborhoods and wealthier areas in Los Angeles.

Groups presented their research and maps this month at the school’s fourth annual service learning conference through youth-led workshops where they offered students, educators and community members solutions to problems that plague their communities.

“With ArcGIS [mapping] I was able to submerge into both of my communities, Boyle Heights and South Central, through a computer screen and learn what are some of the problems that I see in my community and try to come up with a solution,” said Denise Serrano, a junior at Roosevelt High School.

One group focused on why “school food sucks,” and had a volunteer share her daily food intake at school, as she poured dozens of tablespoons of sugar she consumed in her meals. Another group mapped out how teen pregnancy rates are higher in areas with lower quality sex education.

The map below comes from a group who concentrated on the obesity epidemic. An excerpt from group members: Vanessa Ochoa and Selene Hernandez; Jeanette Gomez, Paola Gomez, Marisa Garcia, and Robert Gudino:

“Our project focuses on demonstrating how economic status correlates to an individual’s likelihood to develop obesity. When comparing Boyle Heights with Pacific Palisades, we found a disconnect between the resources and the educational opportunities in each community. This data showed that individuals in low-income communities are more prone to developing obesity than those living in communities with middle to high incomes.”

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We collected data results from the Los Angeles County High Schools’ annual fitness exam pertaining to each student population’s body mass index (BMI), accessible through the Department of Education database. The mapping of Body Mass Index results in correlation to each LA County community’s average household income in 2013 demonstrates that currently, low-income areas are the main victims of the obesity epidemic.”

President Barack Obama launched an initiative last year to strengthen science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education across all K-12 schools in the country through ConnectED. The government education program was developed to prepare students for digital learning opportunities and future employment. To help with the initiative, ESRI announced this week that the company will make its advanced mapping software ArcGIS available for free for all the K-12 schools across the country.

“Many people assume that GIS is just for a math or science classroom, but in reality, at Roosevelt High School, students use this software in thier english and history classes,” said Roosevelt High School social studies teacher Mariana Ramirez. “It’s a interdisciplinary.”

The long-term goal is to have students “develop as urban scholars… and present their research to government agencies and politicians, and take action,” Ramirez added.

Additional groups of students from Roosevelt and the greater Los Angeles area will present their findings with the community this Saturday at the third annual Politics and Pedagogy conference, titled East Side Stories: Healing through Dialogue. The conference, held at Roosevelt High School from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., will include workshops, food, music and art.

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