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Photos by Cinthia Gonzalez

Close to 200 Boyle Heights youth gathered at Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School last week to discuss how to create effective development programs that meet the needs of young people today.

The event kicked off the Boyle Heights for Youth Campaign, an initiative of Building Healthy Communities- Boyle Heights, which aims to get youth leaders involved in key decisions that affect them and their neighborhoods.

Robert Cristo, a young leader and organizer with Youth Justice Coalition, says events like this are needed to address issues that affect youth. “We need to empower youth. Youth require to be taken seriously”¦.For that to happen, the youth need someone to listen to them,” said Cristo.

Parents and students participated in the event organized by a number of local groups, including Inner City Struggle, Legacy L.A., Youth Justice Coalition, Las Fotos Project, i.am College Track and Self-Help Graphics and Art.

Various youth and parent workgroups addressed what youth development meant to them and shared feedback on how they wish resources be diverted into the community. Some hoped to see more arts and crafts, others asked for holistic healing; parents sought parental development classes. Youth also had the opportunity to participate in art workshops, including photography, painting, dance and theater.

The Boyle Heights For Youth Campaign’s goals largely focus on increasing city funding for youth development programs and giving residents the power to weigh in on development decisions made by the City of Los Angeles.

“We recognize that the campaign has to be lead by youth,” said Lou Calanche, executive director of Legacy L.A. “We can’t do it for them and that was the purpose of today; to launch the campaign, to let all these amazing youth that are doing work in their community know that we are here.”

Martha Gonzalez, mother of three and parent organizer with Legacy L.A., was happy to see the large youth turnout. “This is my first time attending this type of event. I usually attend parent group events and I’m surprised to see how many youth showed up,” she said.

The Boyle Heights for Youth Campaign plans to host future events for more youth and parents to get involved. For more information, email info@boyleheightsforyouth.com.

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