“It’s been a very enjoyable program so far and I hope that others will find it to be as much fun as me,” he said. “I’ve learned some things, like photography skills. Brian (Moreland), taught us a lot about photography, how to view it as art. He gave us everything that a photographer needs to know. Thanks to him, it was a lot of fun. I learned a lot. It changed my mind and lets me know that photography is something I might want to pursue in my future.”
Pablo’s poignant reflection comes as the Montgomery Intersession Academy (MIA) wraps up a week-long literacy and photography project. This free program, which will continue with a month-long stint in April, brings 20 middle schoolers — four in sixth grade, 16 eighth graders — to Linda Vista’s Bayside Community Center to work with YMCA of Mission Valley staff members and a group that consists of University of San Diego graduate and undergraduate students and young alumni.
“This program is what being part of a community is all about,” said Monica Fernandez, Bayside’s education director, Linda Vista native and a USD graduate alumna. “A group of community partners working together to provide a safe learning space and a quality program for our young people to help cultivate the future leaders of our community.”
Indeed it is, and what better way to cultivate pride among the future leaders than by taking on an educational and historical project such as telling the story of Linda Vista through individual essays and photographs. Pablo said the project, in less than a week, has turned his view of where he lives completely around.
“I used to think it was a pretty dull place,” he said. “But taking the photos and learning more about it, I think Linda Vista is nice, it’s a decent place to live. It’s a great community for kids.” He also praised the city’s annual Linda Vista Multicultural Fair and Parade for its celebration of diverse food, people and culture. “It has everything right there that you could want,” he said. “Nothing’s missing.”
A slideshow display on Thursday of the students’ photos seemed to capture everything, too. Images ranged from the sky blue Bayside building, lush green grass surrounding large trees, colorful flowers, pictures of food in a local market and USD’s 16th-century Spanish architecture buildings. The essays, with editing support and encouragement from staff (pictured at right, from left to right), Leslie Kehl (USD), Kenyon Whitman (USD), Ilana Lopez (USD), YMCA’s Robert and Brianna, Michelle Padilla (USD) and Brian Moreland (USD), provided vivid reflections about Linda Vista, a richly diverse neighborhood that means “pretty view” in Spanish.
Educational enlightenment wasn’t exclusive to the young students. Moreland, who graduated from the School of Leadership and Education Sciences’ (SOLES) Master’s of Education program for TESOL, Literacy and Culture in December, has lived in San Diego for almost two years. The 24-year-old’s passion for photography and desire to attend graduate school on the west coast after living in New York and Connecticut led him to San Diego and USD. He’s been active in the Montgomery Homework Club tutoring program through USD’s Center for Awareness, Service and Action (CASA), but Moreland said this week he’s received a full Linda Vista education.
“Everywhere we went people were very kind and inviting, very welcoming,” he said. “We visited the fire station and they were great with the kids, showing them around the station and the fire truck. Linda Vista is a very authentic place, like the Mexican food. There’s a great place right by the public library called La Tiendita de Linda Vista.”
Kehl, a first-year master’s student in SOLES’ counseling degree program, also works at Montgomery in its counseling office. She’s enjoyed strengthening her relationship with students, including some who didn’t know she worked at their school.
“This week has been a great opportunity to get to know the kids a little bit better, find out about their family, their home life and to have more conversations, build trust and better relationships with them.”
Lopez, who earned her M.Ed in the TESOL, Literacy and Culture program in 2011 and is CASA’a program director, said being involved in the MIA program, which started last year, means a lot to her because of what it does for Linda Vista’s youth.
“This provides an academic experience that’s also fun, they’re learning about things such as photography, which gives them a great life experience outside of the norm, and they get to do activities in such a positive place (Bayside) to be during the (school) break,” Lopez said.
This week is actually an introduction for what’s to come. Montgomery students will return to Bayside for the entire month of April when their year-round scheduled break occurs. Student leaders from USD, YMCA and Bayside will work with Montgomery students on a mosaic art project, a water conservation project tied to community gardens and there will be additional photography assignments. The culmination of this five-week project will be the Linda Vista Multicultural Fair where MIA will have a booth, sponsored by USD, to showcase its pictures, words, mosaic art and give poster presentations to the community.
“The main goal is to help the students grow,” Moreland said. “We want to motivate them, get them to care about things, not just about now, but for their future. We want them to discover new opportunities that give them a chance to focus on something that can have an impact on them down the road.”
— Ryan T. Blystone