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?

700

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:

Wordle

Inspire Academy Maps Watts

High school students at Inspire Academy created a map Pedestrian Bridge of some community assets within walking distance of the school in Watts. Community asset mapping is a great tool for educators, neighborhood groups and community organizations to inventory the places they live in. Even if we know what’s in our neighborhoods, seeing it on a map can help us understand where there might be more opportunities for small businesses, youth organizations, green space and more. Check out the work these teens did in just a few hours. None of them had previously ever mapped anything before. They also took the photos.

Watts Residents Reflect on Neighborhood Assets

photo (22)“I look at Watts as art. It’s art because of the Watts Towers, because of the graffiti artists that make beautiful drawings. The Watts Towers Art Center hosts lectures, jazz festivals and art classes. People make music videos in this neighborhood and get tattoos of the Towers. Look around and you see art everywhere.”

Rynisha Alexander is 20. She is a resident of Watts, participant in the Watts Community Studio and student at Inspire Academy in Watts. She aspires to become a medical assistant.