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:


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.”