By Libertad González
The air at the Boyle Heights City Hall parking lot was filled with excited talk as enthusiastic parents, children and teens walked and looked around the booths provided for the neighborhood’s first ever Youth Opportunity Fair. Boyle Heights Beat hosted the event held Saturday, October 1, to provide the community an opportunity to learn about the different after-school activities and programs available for kids.
Nearly 30 organizations participated in the fair, including the Mayor’s Youth Council, Boyle Heights Art Conservatory, Neighborhood Music School, Libros Schmibros, Proyecto Pastoral, Girls today Women Tomorrow and Puente Learning Center, just to name a few. The event was co-sponsored by the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council and the office of Councilmember José Huízar.
Guides with brief descriptions of the programs were handed out, along with the latest edition of the Boyle Heights Beat. In a brief introduction, BHB reporter Saul Soto explained the purpose of the event as an “opportunity to give parents the resources to keep their kids busy with activities they enjoy.”
The mother of a young girl who already attends the Neighborhood Music School, Raven Carlos said she was happy to also find a youth soccer program for her daughter.
“It was just nice to see that she can get into other different things,” Carlos said. “We found out we’re going to have a fun run, we like to run, so we’re going to join. The community is getting better, more fun, there’s more things to do.”
Rocio Hernández, the Boyle Heights Area district Director for Councilmember Huízar, said she was happy with the interaction of parents, kids and teens.
“It’s a great turnout,” Hernández said. “It’s great to see a combination of youth and parents who are bringing their children to find out about the resources that Boyle Heights has available to them.”
During the three-hour duration of the fair, people walked around interacting with the various stands available, where there was something for everyone. Groups of friends gathered to check out what was happening and decide if they were interested.
Camilla Torres, a 16-year old at Oscar de La Hoya High School, thought the fair helped her out. “This event gives me a lot of opportunities, especially for college. And there’s food. I know it’ll help me and there’s a lot of cool people here, and a pretty cool bookstore.”
All the organizations were getting attention from the public. At the Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory booth, 15-year-old Xolo Mariduena talked to other youth about getting involved and pursuing careers in the music, arts and entertainment industries.
“I think this event is a good idea,” Mariduena said. “I’m in high school right now, so learning about these different programs and different opportunities is really helpful, especially at this crucial age. There were a bunch of people that came in that won some prizes and that learned a lot about new subjects and about different programs, so it’s definitely helpful for kids.”
Besides food, there was entertainment as well. The Mariachi Conservatory directed by Richard Mata gave an amazing performance that had people standing, recording and singing along. The New Casanovas, two brothers playing the drums and the electric guitar, also had the crowd cheering and astonished at their talent.
Watch a video of the Mariachi Conservatory performing “El son de la negra”:
The fair had a lively feeling as everyone walked around and received helpful information about programs that would benefit both them and the Boyle Heights community.
All photos courtesy of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council.
Libertad González is a youth reporter for Boyle Heights Beat.