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Mid-City CAN Blog

Young volunteer enjoys 'helping my own community'

Raymond Gamez is a high school student and enthusiastic photographer who has been involved in Building Healthy Communities in City Heights since 2011. Building Healthy Communities is The California Endowment’s 10-year, $1 billion effort to make 14 communities, including City Heights, healthier. Raymond’s assistance has helped us document the vibrant, diverse community of City Heights and capture the important resident-led advocacy efforts that are taking place in it.

By Raymond Gamez, 17, Hoover High School student

Raymond Gamez age 17, Hoover High School StudentMy name is Raymond Gamez, and I have been living in City Heights all my life. Growing up in City Heights, I wasn’t satisfied with how City Heights was doing, so I took the initiative to improve it. I was always interested in photography, and I thought ‘What better way to utilize this interest than by helping my own community?’

At a March 2012 forum with the mayor of San Diego, our City Council member, and other officials, residents were giving their opinions on transportation issues affecting City Heights. The event was to advocate for a No-Cost Youth (Bus) Pass, which the City Council later approved for 1,000 students. This event gave me the real life exposure to the media world.

Local news channels were documenting the event. I found myself having to compete for the best picture of Mayor Bob Filner. Everyone wanted to cover his or her own story. After this event was finished, I was able to participate in media training from youth that came down from the Weingart YMCA in Boyle Heights. From this training, I learned how to use Apple software and Final Cut Pro to make videos of our stories.

I also documented the Peace Promotion Momentum team’s Community Conversation event in August. During this event, Mid-City CAN staff member Adam Ward told me to document people’s points of view on the current justice system. I captured brief stories in several breakout workshops. Participants were talking about the injustices in our community. For example, I documented the story of a woman who had a problem with her landlord and was getting kicked out of her house. Having the opportunity to hear what this woman had to say made me more aware of things that we see every day -- things people are supposed to see, but are not seeing. I feel that with the power of media I could expose these stories to the public -- stories that otherwise people would have ignored.

I also took photographs at the media conference for the Central Avenue Mini Park's skate plaza. This event was to celebrate the recent victory of the full funding on the skate plaza element. I was really proud of documenting this, because I was also involved with the Mid-City CAN Youth Council’s efforts toward getting a skate plaza in our community. According to San Diego’s guidelines, City Heights is about 100 acres short of usable park space, so this park is really important. As a photographer, I was glad to document the victory of getting the skate park and those city allies that helped make this happen.

I was really glad to have the opportunity to shadow and have the mentorship of Adam Ward. This experience gives me a base in the media field. Following the steps of Mr. Ward has given me the fundamentals in the career that I have been seeking. I want to study photography and/or graphic communications.

Scenes from "Go Skateboarding" Day in June 2013 in City Heights. More than 200 residents came out for the event to advocate for a skatepark for their community. Photos by Raymond Gamez

Scenes from "Go Skateboarding" Day in June 2013 in City Heights. More than 200 residents came out for the event to advocate for a skatepark for their community. Photos by Raymond Gamez

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