These KCRW Young Creators want to give Boyle Heights a fuller narrative

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“The youth were like, ‘We did that. We just left a legacy here. We made history,” says Francisco Lopez, a GRYD manager with Legacy LA about the program’s mural art. Video by YouTube.

KCRW’s Young Creators Project is showcasing journalism submissions from LA-based writers under age 21. Adrian Casillas and Diego Hernandez are East LA-based high school students who work with Boyle Heights Beat, a community news project produced by young people in their community. 

The duo’s video submission covers the Gang Reduction Youth Development program (GRYD) and Legacy LA, groups dedicated to gang and crime intervention and prevention.

The video was inspired in part by Hernandez, who joined the program a few years ago: “In my community there used to be a bunch of tagging and a bunch of shootouts at night. … People got hurt,” tells KCRW. 

It’s through storytelling that a community can find connection, Casillas explains.

“You can connect with someone that you might not have through another means to do so. And I think what I especially like about journalism … it's the opportunity to offer stories from community members themselves. Boyle Heights doesn't get the best rap in usual media publications, and it's an opportunity to shift the narrative.” 

Casillas points to Casita del Barrio, which he profiled recently for Boyle Heights Beat: “They're using their resources to recycle water and their compost. It became a community hub or center for arts and such. And so I think that was such a nice divergence. It was just about community, which is what I think is the best part about Boyle Heights.” 

Looking to the future, Hernandez hopes to attend UC Berkeley and major in business. Casillas, who’s a high school senior, will be attending UCLA and aims to continue on his path as a storyteller and eventually, return to Boyle Heights.