Our cities and neighborhoods are better served when youth serve. When decision makers welcome youth to the table, we all reap the rewards.
Boyle Heights Building Healthy Communities and Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach, are committed to working with youth to help them work for themselves, find their voice and tap into their power. In fact, all of our sister building healthy community sites across the state believe that we are better when we provide youth the resources they need to stand up and stand out. Each site does it a bit differently, but the commitment is the same: invest in youth.
Here in Long Beach, young people have taken the lead in calling for more investment in the opportunities that help youth succeed: jobs, after-school programs, parks, and libraries. Currently, only 5% of the city’s 2018 adopted budget is allocated to youth programs and services like these. A closer look at how our city spends down public dollars shows that only $204 is spent on positive development programs per youth but an overwhelming $10,500 is spent on suppression for each youth arrest.
Janice, Jocelyn, Lian, Crystal. IIY 2018 Photo by Sylvana Uribe BHC Long Beach
That’s why youth leaders with the BHC Youth Committee talked to over 750 Long Beach residents this past Fall to reveal that 7 out of 10 residents support an increase of public funds for youth programs. Now youth leaders are taking their community’s input to City Hall to advocate for the establishment of a citywide Fund for Children and Youth with revenue from the new marijuana sales taxes. Together they are engaging young people in the public budget process and highlighting solutions to give youth the resources they need to thrive.
Boyle Heights youth have a history of taking power into their own hands. As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the East LA Walkouts we are reminded of the power youth have. Organizations like Self Help Graphics & Art, Legacy LA, and Inner City Struggle owe their establishment to youth movements and youth driven work. It is the legacy that has pushed the work in Boyle Heights to be rooted in envisioning and thrusting their realities into the future. To do so requires flipping of the script when it comes to who decides what the work looks like but mainly how it feels to do the work. A refocus on community empowerment to create possibilities rather than respond to the current inequalities has given us some key wins.
In 2016 the HHN workgroup successfully worked with Councilmember Huizar to pass a motion to study youth development funding and to help define what youth development actually translates to within the city budget. This motion will allow us to broaden the spectrum of youth development to include other aspects of wellness and focus how resources are allocated and coordinated. By 2017 the Councilmembers were using our language when speaking about youth and in March of 2018 Councilmember Huizar partnered with Councilmembers Rodriguez and Buscaino to introduce a motion asking the City for the establishment of a Youth Development Taskforce, a building block in establishing a Youth Development Department.
We’ve come a long way since the building healthy communities movement began in 2010, but Boyle Heights and Long Beach residents and elected officials must continue to take steps that will support more programs and better services that will lead to priceless outcomes.
The future is here. Let’s be unified in our investment in youth in Boyle Heights and Long Beach, and let’s all work together to give our youngest residents an authentic chance to represent themselves as they improve our city.
The future wellbeing of our communities depends on raising a generation of skilled and confident adults. Concerns about our youth need to be at the center of our policy and budget debates.
This is a perfect time to start as local city councils are beginning to finalize their budgets for the upcoming year. Let’s deliver more services and more programs that support youth. Let’s provide more green space and parks and let’s prioritize investing in neighborhoods that have been forgotten and neglected.
We need to invest in our youth and we need to do it now through collaboration.