Written by Alan Garcia
Growing up in the hot, desert-like North San Fernando Valley, there really aren’t a surplus of fun activities for teens. Most of the nearby community is made up of various factories, spaces that are so dense in pollution and toxic gases that it pushes away any sort of space that could be used for a social location. Students within Cesar Chavez Learning Academy know how scarce it is to find something fun to do. Located right in the middle of a large complex of factories, students acknowledge the lack of recreational space and share their thoughts on this deficiency of fun and safe free time.
Most students in the neighborhood have no choice but to journey to other cities such as Northridge, Burbank, or even Valencia to escape the toxicity of our city, in order to find something to do. Yet the commute to these locations can be a hassle for most. Most of the students I polled answered negatively regarding the experiences they had as worth the trip; replying that it really wasn’t the most efficient thing to do, and that having local spaces would be far more convenient.
The two images above depict two of the more common places where students travel to- Burbank and Valencia. It seems clear about what draws students in- clean, well-lit places to hang out, shop, and eat. I wanted to see what teenagers in our community would like to see added to San Fernando; there are several renovations going on downtown as I write this article. I got some solid feedback when I sat down with a couple of students to get their thoughts on the matter. I asked them if they noticed the initial lack of spaces and 75% said yes. When I asked what they would like to see be added in our community I got several answers such as laser tag, a movie theatre, an arcade, a shopping center, and a food court or bowling alley. Cleary it is evident that this topic has been on people’s minds; they had no trouble coming up with suggestions.
So what can be done? Is there anything that teenagers can do? These are the questions I began to ask myself. I thought about this for awhile until I finally I decided to contact the San Fernando City council about this. I sent an email out asking about renovating spaces like the old JC Penny store on San Fernando Road, as well as the Sam’s Club on Foothill Blvd. that was recently closed and if the people who reside in the Sylmar/ San Fernando area could be a part of the plan to convert it into something fun. However, I have not received any news yet; even as it appears that these locations are going to be turned into something very soon.
I believe that if students could find a way to speak out and reach out more to the community at large, then we would certainly see some changes around the area. It really does become a matter regarding how badly people actually want their neighborhood to reflect their interests, and what we will do to get it. Finally I hope that students do reach out to the local San Fernando government because it would shine a lot more light of this topic. These spaces would be meant for everyone and it would definitely benefit us, to not go through the hassle of going to other cities for a good time.