In Our Words: The Best Things About Richmond/San Pablo (and what we wish would change)

Commentary, Various Authors | Photo, Denis Perez-Bravo

Richmond Pulse recently asked some Kennedy and Richmond High students about their likes and dislikes of growing up in Richmond and San Pablo. Here is a sample of the responses we received.

Growing up in the San Pablo/Richmond area, I’ve seen a lot of renewal. My elementary school was newly built when I attended it and being there opened my eyes and I began to notice new parks being built around me.
I remember going to these parks, meeting and interacting with other children. I reminisce about my childhood often, as it was the best part of growing up. Being able to go to the park and play with other children helped me develop social skills that give me the confidence today to easily talk with anyone.
In middle school, San Pablo was nominated for an all American city award because of all the innovations. I was, luckily, selected to participate in a presentation that would lead us to winning. This ultimately helped our economy and gave us more opportunities to keep rebuilding.
One thing that should change is the amount of garbage lying around. I know this isn’t something we can totally resolve but there can be something done about it. Perhaps installing more public trashcans would give people more opportunities to throw away their trash.
-Jose Portillo, 17

As Richmond students we get lots of opportunities. There are many resources for those under 18, including free food, free school supplies and free personal supplies. There are many open doors for us if we look for them. To me, this is the best thing.
Our community’s concern is our education, which is why I feel like we are extremely lucky to live here. Another best thing is the culture. As kids we’re taught about the different cultures that are in our community and we get to experience it through community events. I feel like this helps us out in life because it makes us more accepting to those around us.
– Wendy Figueroa, 17

As a young person in San Pablo I appreciate our small, connected community. When I moved here it seemed isolated and lonely; I didn’t know anyone or have any knowledge about the area.
My neighbors helped my family and I adapt to the environment. I can’t say every neighbor you have will be friendly, but most of them are and for a young person feeling comfortable in a place you aren’t familiar with is important while you’re growing up.
Teenagers spend most of their time interacting with technology unless they have something else to do. That something else can be going out to eat or watching a movie with friends. Also, during our Cinco de Mayo parade, everyone gets together to celebrate the special day. It is one of the many times our community works together to make something for everyone. Our community is small but it has strong presence.
– Julia Martinez, 17

Events are the best thing about Richmond. I love seeing people gather to watch the Cinco de Mayo parade and then visiting the festival the next day. People walk back and forth and you’re surrounded by the smell of food, sound of music and the bright colors all around.
But, I would like to change some of the areas around Richmond and I would like to have more events. There are a lot of areas here where lots are empty and filled with trash. It’d be nice to have a program or something where people go around those areas and pick up the trash, or to make it easier the city could install more trashcans.
– Lesly Valladares Vides, 17

The best thing about growing up in Richmond is the cultural exchange of food in the Richmond and San Pablo area. As a kid, I would always go to the Lao market, the San Pablo supermarket, and to burrito trucks nearby as well. I was glad I got to live through my Asian culture in Richmond and also experience different foods and places of the majority Latinx population. Traveling to nearby cities such as Pinole, Berkeley, and Oakland also allowed me to see new, and similar things, food and culture wise.
I think having more opportunities for youth to be involved in before high school would be amazing because I didn’t have anything to do or explore much as a kid.
– Famh Chao, 17

The best thing about living in Richmond/San Pablo is that we have such a diverse community where we can all relate to our struggles and therefore help one another.
I love that we have corner stores and small community shops that sell a variety of products, from food to toiletries.
I also like how our community provides many programs for a variety of people, especially families that need help or support. And overall I really enjoy the Century Richmond Hilltop Theater. I truly enjoy going there with my family to have a good time.
What I would change is the way some neighborhoods don’t have stop signs or speed bumps. I recently witnessed a car accident because of this. Another thing I would change is the amount of neighborhoods that are not safe. We need more safety and less violence. There’s always that one neighborhood that is not safe and everyone tends to avoid it when walking or driving. I would prefer to have more markets too, especially healthy ones, like Whole Foods Market, Berkeley Bowl, Sprouts, Williams Natural Foods, etc. I would also like for our schools to improve, they need a more modern look and a clean environment.
– Evelyn Mendoza, 17

Richmond and San Pablo have many different hang out spots for young people and friends and families, but not enough.
The Century Richmond Hilltop Theater is one of those places where you can make memories. It is a place where you can take your mind off of any worries. The theater doesn’t only provide people with an array of movies, it also has a snack/drink bar and a videogame room.
However we need more, there isn’t a place where people can hang out as a community. Hilltop mall served that purpose but it’s currently shutting down to be remodeled. Some of the shops are closed while others remain open. The mall used to be a place full of life, buzzing with chatter. Now, there are rarely any people who go to the mall and those who do roam around aimlessly. It is also inconvenient because for many, the mall was the main source where people used to shop for clothes. The only stores in Richmond/San Pablo where you can buy clothing from are Macy’s, Ross, and Walmart.
– Nayeli Pena, 17

People in Richmond really like bonding with others and that shows everywhere I go in Richmond. Everybody is really close with everybody. You can go to your local corner store and you might see your friends or a family friend walking by. Living in San Pablo is the same thing, just a little different because I think people aren’t out as much as people in Richmond. And people don’t really claim San Pablo like they Richmond.
What I would change about Richmond is that everybody should become one, and take care of our city and keep it clean. Central Richmond and North Richmond don’t like each other, and I don’t know why. They get on the internet and talk shit to each other and make diss-songs about each other and talk about how they want to kill each other and how much they hate each other. That’s not cool. We should all just be one big group and help Richmond become a better place for our future.
– Angel Segura, 18

The schools here give so much support to their students. Although people see Richmond as a city that has a lot of problems I see it as a city that seeks to offer a better future for its students.
The main problem in Richmond is youth safety. Lots of crime still happens in Richmond and I think that the youth can be influenced to join in with crime in the streets.
– Osvaldo Garcia, 17

I believe that the best thing about living as a young person in Richmond is that you are home in an aspiring community.
You, and many other young people are preparing to branch out into the world, and aspire to make a difference in society. If you are ever in need of help or advice, you have many helpful peers and people who went though the same thing you did when they were younger.
The Richmond community wants to make a difference, and to differentiate from the bad things that many people may say about Richmond.
The community is entangled in a spiderweb of trust, friendship, commitment, respect, and unity.
– Draco Henderson, 17

These responses have been edited for clarity and length.

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