Share about your life journey and how you found yourself living and working in the City Heights community.
Rosa: I was born and raised in City Heights. My parents immigrated to the United States and planted their roots in City Heights before my brother and I were born. I lived in City Heights all my life until I left for college.
You have served the City Heights community for many years as a resident, volunteer, and through local jobs. Describe your current roles and past roles. What did you enjoy the most about those roles?
R: My journey of community involvement began at the age of 12 when I tagged along with my older brother to his after-school program, Reality Changers. Seeing him talk about college and community transformation in a way that was new to our family sparked my interest. I joined Reality Changers as a student and became part of the Mid City CAN’s Youth Council during my middle school years. After my brother was hit by a car while skating home, I worked closely with the youth council to advocate for a skatepark in City Heights. Through years of constant advocating, our youth council successfully secured funding and a location for the skatepark and plaza. After college, I returned to City Heights and took on the role of Transportation Justice Organizer at Mid-City CAN. I took the lead in developing organizational and political strategies for the Youth Opportunity Passes campaign as a member of the Improving Transportation in City Heights team. In my current role as the Senior Infrastructure and Community Development Policy Advisor for the County of San Diego District 1 office, my commitment to elevating City Heights remains a daily priority. In my role, I worked on securing funding with SANDAG to launch a county-wide Youth Opportunity Passes initiative for all youth ages 18 and under.
What changes have you experienced in City Heights over the years? What partners have been instrumental in this change?
R: Over the years, I’ve observed local non-profits in City Heights work together to uplift community voices to bring more parks, walkable streets, affordable housing, and programs. Reality Changers, for example, has been instrumental in empowering first-generation college students by providing an opportunity for City Heights youth to see themselves going to college.
Is there anything that has surprised you over the years as a resident of and advocate for City Heights?
R: What I love about City Heights is that we are truly proud of where we come from and know what change we need to see in the community. I’m always impressed by the pride we have in City Heights, as well as the love we have for our community. I believe that we are persistent, and we never give up.
In your opinion, what do you see as the most important challenges currently confronting the City Heights community?
R: I believe City Heights’ biggest challenges are gentrification and displacement. Due to the housing crisis, what used to be affordable housing in City Heights has become unattainable for low-income residents. Many of our community members can no longer afford to live in City Heights and are being pushed out to further communities.
What lessons have you learned throughout your efforts that you would like to pass on to others?
R: Learn how to set boundaries to take care of yourself. When you’re working on creating institutional change to bring policies that benefit our communities that have been ignored, it can be hard to take a moment to take care of yourself in the process. To continue and be your best self, you need to find time to prioritize self-care.
What advice would you give to the youth in City Heights?
R: Stay true to yourself and your roots. I always bring my community with me in my heart and any role I’m in. Staying true to myself has helped create spaces for our communities in rooms and places that were not made for us.