Oakland has experienced a lot of change in recent years. While the city has seen the growth of new restaurants and tourist attractions, it has also seen an increase in rent prices and resident displacement. Oakland has even been termed "the Brooklyn by the Bay" because of the stark effects of gentrification throughout the city's neighborhoods. How do Oakland residents feel about this change? Well, a group of high school seniors employed through Youth UpRising's summer employment program conducted research to answer that question. The Youth-Led Participatory Action Research (YPAR) project focused on housing, and it gave the students an opportunity to create their own surveys and go out into the community to collect responses. The students' reasons for joining the research team varied, but they all shared a personal connection to the issue:
"We're all from the community ... We can see that housing and mortgage is influencing the type of people coming into these communities. We can see that people are getting kicked out. We wanted to know what were the things making people leave and what were the challenges they were facing." - Miriam
"I have an aunt who is facing these problems. Her landlord keeps increasing her rent." - Olivia
"I'm from here and I care about Oakland so I got informed about the issue and wanted to be part of it." - Chaz
Though the students are Oakland natives, they still managed to learn a lot about their community through the project:
"In the news, when they broadcast it, they say people don't care about the community, but people are being pushed out. They do care." - Daejona
"I was surprised that if given the chance to relocate, most people (52%) said they wouldn't." - Jasmine
The students hope that the results of the research will leave a long-lasting impact on the community, and they plan to contribute to this impact in any way they can:
"I always knew I wanted to be involved in helping the community. I want to be active in community protests, meetings, things like that, to contribute to real progress and change. I hope that this research can serve as a voice for the community, and hopefully we could see it bring change." - Chaz
"There are so many people who said they don't have a voice, don't want to vote, or aren't taking the initiative and using the resources they have. We should change that. This experience showed me that I love public speaking, and I want to have an impact through teaching - teaching through my life" - Daejona
"I hope that some of the information will be given to people who have the resources to provide services to the community, and that people can learn the process of owning a home or retaining the property that they have." - Miriam
All of the students involved in this project are college-bound and plan to devote their time to majors in sociology, communications, nursing, business, and more. We're excited to see the change that these young people create as they continue to pursue their passions.
See the results of their research here.