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Central Valley Youth Reflect on Their Generation's Dreams

New America Media, Q&A, Various Posted: Apr 26, 2007

Editors Note: A new poll of Californias young people--California Dreamersreveals their optimism for the future. The fastest growing region in the state, and one of the most diverse, Californias Central Valley is a mirror of this new global society. In West Fresno, writers for The Know, a magazine of youth voices in the Central Valley published by New America Media, reflect on questions of identity, standard of living and social issues posed in the poll.

What defines your sense of identity? Music? Clothing? Ethnicity/Race?

Jaleesa, 17
Wearing name brand clothes is a high priority for young peopleits like they are wearing their souls on their backs, carrying their hearts and minds in the tags in their shirts. If a person is raised to only go after the top fashion labels, theyll act like they are going to die if they have to shop at Wal-Mart when times get hard.

If you dont have the right kind of music blaring from your $200 phone, then you might as well not be alive (in the eyes of some young people, that is). People separate themselves according to music styles, and it isnt pretty when they conflict with each other. Now, you see a constant battle its always rap vs. rock. And if people like music from both sides, they end up standing alone.

youth group fresno

Blackwydoe, 16
What defines my identity? Religion, music, fashion, ethnicity, race, personality? Well honestly, none of the above. I define my identity. I choose how people perceive me. I pick my friends, clothes, music, religion, and personality. My race and ethnicity I cant change, but they dont define who I am. If they did, I would be a German Nazi or white supremacist. But Im not.

Anna, 16
The things that define my identity would mostly be my personality. Without my personality, I wouldnt be me.

Another thing would be music and fashion. Music is a big part of everyones life because with no music, we wouldnt be able to show what we feel and who we are. Without fashion, I wouldnt be able to show people who I am by the way I dress. Fashion is important in everyones life. Its just like music and personality. We wouldnt be able to be ourselves.

Marcus, 17
I think personality, religion, their choice of clothes and music barely describes the person. It is mostly the persons race and ethnicity that really plays a part. I feel the person, whether male or female, should be defined first by their actions instead of trying to just place them into categories and separate them. One man praises Jesus and God while another praises Mohammed and Allah, or chooses a Buddhist lifestyle or whatever traditions and religions follow. They preach basically the same message of trying to lead a religious life.

Jesse, 16
The main thing that defines my identity is my concern for the well being of others, my lovable spirit, my happy attitude, my ability to serve people, my persistence to keep going, and my personality. I care about people and how they feel, not towards me but about themselves. Many people ask me, Well, dont you hate some folks? and I tell them, No, I love the person regardless of skin color, race, and gender. Their habits might be wrong, but I strive to love them in spite of that, to help them strive away from those habits. Am I my brothers keeper? Yes and vice-versa.

Do you think your standard of living will be higher, lower, or the same as your parents?

Sandy, 18
I believe my standard of living will be much higher than my parents. More education means more opportunities. My parents never had the educational opportunities like my siblings and myself. I know theyve been through a lot and expect so much out of us that we push ourselves to the limit. I dont want to live the same exact stories. I want my own story where I can live a better life and help my parents enjoy it with me. I believe its worth the struggle to strive for something much greater.

LaKenya, 16
I think my standard of living will be higher than my parents because I come from a family where education isnt a big deal. People in my family may push you to go to college, but they really wouldnt care if you did. I, on the other hand, will go and will graduate. Then maybe some of my younger cousins or nieces and nephews can look up to me and think of me when they think of family and/or graduation.

My mother wasnt always well off and she still isnt. My father was always in and out of prison. I dont want that for me. I want a higher education with a good paying job that I enjoy doing. I also want a luxurious car and a beautiful house. Im just trying to make a difference in my family because Lord knows we need it.

Patrice, 16
One goal I will set in my life is to have a higher standard than my mom. I feel if I dont do anything else in life, I have to do that. I will not go through the same things that my mama went through. One reason is that I dont want to have to depend on people all my life to do things for me. If my rent is past due, I dont want to have to go to a family member and sit there and explain to them why I need them to help me. Another reason is because if I ever have kids, I wouldnt want them to go through the same thing I am, like living paycheck to paycheck with bills on top of bills. I want my son or daughter to be proud of their parents.

What is the most pressing issue facing your generation? Family breakdown? Violence? Poverty? Global warming?

Keya, 17
The most pressing issue facing my generation is family breakdown. My family is going through so much stress. My family is really large but now its weakening, becoming smaller and smaller. Its like being at war with the world.

Ariel, 17
The main source of stress in my life right now would have to be school. Right now, I could not be any more stressed about school and life after high school! I have always dreamed of going to a historically black college only it would be so far away from my family. My mom says I should go because Fresno doesnt offer much for African-Americans trying to be successful. She says she wont be upset but if I leave her, who will she have? Mostly the concern is my family. My dream for a long time was to get out of Fresno, and now that the chance has come for me to leave, Im getting nervous.

Kiya, 17
I feel the main source of my stress is school. School is stressful because I worry all the time if I am passing my classes or not. I worry whether or not I will move on to the next grade. I am turning my work in all the time, but will I be able to play sports if my grades arent up? Then after all that, I have to worry about major tests such as the California High School Exit Exam which decides whether you are going to get a high school diploma.

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