Last Friday, the Pilarcitos High School Youth Leadership Institute sponsored a community event to highlight the work members have done over the year. It also featured work from sister groups at Half Moon Bay High School and at Oceana High School in Pacifica.
Rod Spikes, the program coordinator for the institute at Pilarcitos High School, organized the event. He took over the program in February and has been working with the students, once a week, during fifth period.
“We have a nice, diverse group,” he said. “We have been looking at social determinants of health in Half Moon Bay through affordable housing, immigration and substance abuse and how all three are linked to mental health.”
The students had written several questions on butcher paper exploring the topic of healthy communities, and participants were invited to contribute their answers and commentary on Post-It notes.
Pilarcitos student Nanci Garcia shared a few responses with the group on the question, “How has the cost of living in Half Moon Bay affected you or your family?”
“As we all know, it’s pretty expensive to live here,” she said after reading through the Post-It notes. “This comment says, ‘Seeing community members living in storage rooms because they can’t afford a room.’ I don’t know anyone who lives in a storage room, but that really caught my eye.”
Ei Ei Samai and Rubi Salazar shared powerful poetry on their experiences as immigrants, Samai through a prerecorded video and Salazar in person. Salazar was a YLI student at Half Moon Bay High School and is now the program assistant at Oceana High School, and Samai is a participant in her group.
The poetry was a preview of an anthology on immigrant stories that is being collected by students in the Coastside YLI groups. The students plan to publish this anthology when it is complete in the hopes of shifting the narrative on immigration.
Participants were also invited to visit a gallery, where the Pilarcitos students used photos and accompanying text to highlight concerns about illegal substances in the community as well as the disparity in housing between Ocean Colony and Moonridge.
The highlight of the event was a performance by Oakland hip-hop dance troupe Culture Shock. About 50 members of the dance troupe traveled from the East Bay to perform.
The troupe’s enthusiasm for hip-hop was matched by its passion for the Culture Shock motto, which they all spoke in unison as one member, Spikes, introduced them: “We are a troupe of individuals who, through the power of music and dance, cultivate self-worth, dignity and respect for all people.”
It’s a motto that mirrors the values of the Youth Leadership Institute.
“We want to let youth know that they have a voice,” said Spikes. “As long as they speak up, they will be heard.”