Around the first week of July, my former student Miguel Vasquez Jr. and I were out off-roading on our bikes. It was a pretty hot day, and we had taken the Metro Gold Line out to Sierra Madre and then went out to the Santa Fe Dam. This was my little gift for him, since he had expressed the desire to bike in a place where the concrete jungle was not so prominent.
“I’ve always wanted to do this,” he said multiple times, which struck up a conversation about how living in Boyle Heights annoyed him.
“I wish stuff like this was in Boyle Heights,” he said when looking at the parks and the green areas we passed.
This made me curious.
For all my students who were on their way to college, and especially the ones who were leaving Boyle Heights, what were they taking with them? What expectations did they have?
From a group of five students– two who went to Humboldt State University, two at Occidental College, and one at San Francisco State University– I received a lot of affirmation and some valid critiques from growing up in Boyle Heights.
My first question focused on what they had gained from living in Boyle Heights and whether or not they felt they were exposed to the world outside their own.
Here’s what they had to say:
While some found their environment had given them confidence and perspective, others said they’re experience wasn’t so positive.
Next, I asked if they felt their exposure and experience had allowed them to appreciate cultures beyond their own.
And finally, I wanted to see what these students would want their home to have. Interestingly enough, they shared the same themes.
Gene K. Dean is currently an English teacher at Roosevelt High School and adviser for The Roughrider newspaper. Referred to as weirdly, athletically nerdy, a voracious reader, a brick wall, and a dedicated teacher. Gene looks forward to essay grading, reading and keeping odd hours to promote social justice.