The Future of Watts: The Power of Youth Voice

Brainstorming Session

At the beginning of the Watts Community Studio project, our resident data nerds brought you the fun facts that the average person in Watts is 24 years old and that 39% of Watts residents are under 18. Watts is a young place, full of families (see Resources Page) and this matters as we think about how we can improve the quality of life for the neighborhood.

This summer, young people from Watts joined the Watts Community Studio through the Summer Youth Employment Program and conducted over 700 resident surveys. These youth got to know their own neighborhood in a more intimate way than so many of us get a chance to. Can you imagine asking 700 of your neighbors what they feel needs to be improved in the community?


Within the last few weeks, these incredible Watts young people have entered resident survey data into spreadsheets for data analysis and continued to participate in other aspects of the project.  As school has now started, their time with the WCS is coming to a close. Yet before they leave, we decided to turn the tables on these teens and ask them what they think Watts needs. 

Youth Presentation

For two weeks, the youth met with each other and talked about their experiences growing up in Watts and being a part of this project. They presented the WCS team with their ideas and recommendations last week. The team was blown away by their thoughtful insights into what the young people of Watts want the most. Their idea will be in our final report. It will remain a surprise for now, but here is a sneak preview by way of Wordle:



Summer Youth Employees Begin Entering Watts Survey Data

The Summer Youth Employees working with the Watts Community Studio team have undergone data entry training so that they can start inputting results from this summer’s survey of Watts residents. These youth from Watts, as young as sixteen, now get to add the vital skill of data entry to their growing resumes.  None of the youth had previously worked on Excel or Google Collaborative Apps but they are quickly learning the foundations of these programs. Hundreds of surveys will be entered for data analysis within the next few days and weeks. More exciting news will come once the data entry process is complete but for the interim, if you see these kids in the neighborhood don’t forget to give them a high-five for their amazing efforts.  We would also like to thank the WLCAC, an organization that has graciously let the WCS use their computer lab for this data entry process.

Moving Forward: Seeing the Finish Line!

Surveying at several locations around Watts throughout the summer.

Surveying at several locations around Watts throughout the summer.

Today concludes the survey administration phase of the Watts Community Studio (WCS) project!  Survey administrators walked throughout Watts within Council District 15 boundaries asking residents about community needs, assets, and conditions. Several Watts-area organizations also hosted survey administration days and provided support to the WCS team.  Throughout the summer, the Los Angeles Police Department and City of LA’s Summer Night Lights program collaborated in survey administration and bolstered community support.  Additionally, local churches informed their congregation about the project and as a result of all these great efforts, the WCS received endless support.  LA Department of Water and Power (DWP) donated light bulbs, coloring books, bags, and stress balls for a surveys administration day.  Additionally, local residents hosted a dinner for the tireless work of the WCS team during hot and long days of survey administration.

Images from around Watts where surveyors often spent time talking to residents.

Images from around Watts where surveyors often spent time talking to residents.

Our survey administrators were composed of youth born and/or raised in Watts employed by the City of LA’s Summer Youth Employment Program. These youth drove the success of the WCS survey administration phase. Watching them use their observational skills and knowledge about Watts in order to identify the challenges and struggles in the community, as well as assets, has been a great experience. Their skills for community engagement and knowledge of their own neighborhood grew. Today our WCS survey team can tell us where all the service planning areas of Watts are and what differences there are between them – do you know your neighborhood that well?  They can also identify local organizations, programs, parks, and businesses that are actively engaging in the future of Watts.

The WCS survey team gets treated to a home cooked meal made by Maria Gonzalez. Maria and Javier Gonzalez are also the proud parents of WCS staff member Cynthia Gonzalez. Cynthia and her family live in Watts. This was a lovely impromptu treat.

The WCS is committed to a collective community engagement approach.  The survey administration phase has definitely demonstrated the commitment of local community-based organizations, city agencies, youth, and residents.  WCS is thankful for this collective effort.  The next phase of the project includes asset mapping, data entry and analysis, focus groups, and the writing of the 5-year plan.

Watts is resiliency and commitment!

Community Coming Together: Civic Engagement and Organizational Support in Watts

The Watts Community Studio wants to make sure that all the different areas of Watts have a say in how Council District 15 can improve the quality of life in the neighborhood. This is why we want to collect as many surveys from residents across Watts as possible. The project team is using different ways to reach out to residents, like (1) walking door-to-door, (2) surveying at places where there are a lot of residents, like Ted Watkins Park, (3) attending local events, like the LAPD Night Out, (4) partnering with local organizations to administer surveys, and (5) working with local churches and faith-based organizations.

This past month, the Summer Youth Employment participants dedicated time from their weekend to survey the residents at a partnering church. San Miguel Catholic Church (San Miguel) is a local church in a residential area of Watts that offers a number of community-related programs, like Catechism, English as a Second Language courses, citizenship classes, and vocational skills workshops. San Miguel graciously offered their space for survey administration on a Sunday during all of their services. The priest encouraged church members to meet one of the Watts Community Studio representatives in front of the church while they were heading out to complete surveys. Residents responded to the request and added a number of thoughts for advocacy, support, and commitment on all levels to insure the future of Watts, which led to the collection of 124 surveys.

The experience was exciting. Civic engagement was very present at this event! The residents expressed that they felt a sense of community, comfort, and culture that is only present in Watts. Most residents have lived in the area for over 15 years and have witnessed a change in community dynamics. For example, people come out of their homes more often and are actively utilizing the resources in the community, like the newly remodeled Ted Watkins Park. They felt that there’s a need to invest in employment and social spaces at a local level and that simple solutions, like beautification projects, would go a long way.

The Watts Community Studio would like to thank San Miguel Church for their support.

Watts Youth on Influencing Positive Change

JashuaJahsua Jones is one of the youngest survey administrators for the Watts Community Studio project. Just 16 years old, he attends Simon Rodia Continuation School where he is completing his high school diploma. Jahsua has demonstrated great enthusiasm as a survey administrator and participant in civic engagement.  As a resident and youth of Watts, Jahsua feels it’s important to facilitate a community engagement approach that aims to make his neighborhood a better place to live in.  Additionally, he feels this experience has provided him with the opportunity to learn more about his own community. The Watts Community Studio is an innovative project out of Council District 15 that is asking Watts residents and businesses to influence the future of economic development and planning in the neighborhood. Jashua’s excitement centers on how the local government aims to change the dynamic in the community by learning more about what Watts wants and including the Watts community in the decision-making process.

“It’s the residents who will tell you what’s going on and what needs to be done.”

Hey Watts Residents! Have you filled out a survey?

The Watts Community Studio (WCS) is nearing the final days of residential surveys. The dedicated survey administrators are still out conducting residential and small business surveys in the neighborhood. If you are a resident of Watts and have not filled out a survey yet please email us so we can let you know the survey locations for this week. If you want to find us, look for these guys below!

Watts Community Studio surveyors walking along Central Ave.