What the Kids Think
Group Project: What the Kids Think
My research team and I were given an opportunity to interview a class of juniors and seniors who attended a high school in South Phoenix. We had spoken to other members of the community (police officers, community planners, local artists, adults in the area), but we were really interested in what the teenagers in the South Phoenix had to say about the area.
We came up with a list of questions to ask the teens. These can be viewed by clicking on the link below, or by using the tool bar on the left side of the web page. Most of the questions we asked the teens were about how safe they felt in their community.
The class that we interviewed was made up on ¾ African American students. Twelve of the twenty-four students in the class were born in South Phoenix and twelve of the twenty-four students parents had been born in South Phoenix. Fourteen of the twenty-four students expressed a desire to continue to live in the community after high school and college.
When we asked the class our questions about safety in their community and neighborhoods, we were surprised by their answers. The majority of the students said that they felt safe in their neighborhoods. David, a student in the class, said, “I have no problem with the area and I have lived here since grade school.” He also said that he would like to continue to live in the area and hopes to raise his future family here. Another student, Tony, said “In media or in the paper, South Phoenix crime is looked at as gang related while in Glendale and the rest of the valley, the crime is very dulled down.” He believed that there was no more crime in South Phoenix than in other areas of the valley, but that the media was perpetuating the idea that South Phoenix is unsafe. Isaac, another student, said that he was more scared to hang out on the west side (of Phoenix) than in South Phoenix. One of his classmates, Dorothy corroborated this by saying that once you know the area you aren’t scared anymore. She said that there were people she was afraid of (drug users ‘crack-heads), but you just had to know how to protect yourself and your family.
Because so many of the students expressed a desire to continue to live in South Phoenix after they became responsible for their own homes, we wanted to hear their thoughts on which areas of South Phoenix they would like to live in. They were well aware of all of the new construction happening in South Phoenix. We asked them if they would prefer to move into existing homes or if they would like to have one of the new homes that are being built. Nearly every student said they would want a new home.
One of the students, Stevie, brought up a very important issue that has been an ongoing theme for our research team. She said that even though the new construction was harming her community, she would still want one of the new homes. She said that the new homes being built are really nice, but they are pushing out current residents from the housing market. She espoused ideas very similar to those in the article, “Is Gentrification a Dirty Word.” This article defines gentrification as, “the upgrading of housing and retail businesses in a neighborhood with an influx, generally, of private investment” (Gentrification, 2). The article goes on to say that as gentrification takes place in an area it pushes out current residents and changes the communities in a way that alienates the current residents. Stevie also felt that if the city decides to officially rename South Phoenix as South Mountain Village it will harm the community because the name carries very personal meaning behind it for the residents.
The big picture concept that I took away after this interview was the amount of community pride these teens have. They recognize that there are problems within their communities, but this is their home. They want the better things in life, but they also want to bring those good things back to their communities. They want to improve South Phoenix in a way that would benefit current residents.
Click to see other team member's comments on this project.