The goals we formulate for our lives are greatly influenced by where we started out in life. As a teenager, Alma Velasco had dreams of finishing school and getting a degree in El Salvador. But her dreams were shattered by the dangerous conditions created by the El Salvadorian civil war which first broke out in 1979, and lasted for almost 13 years. Alma's mother lived in fear for the safety her children, and although it meant she may never see her daughter again, she made the difficult decision to send Alma to cross the border into the United States. This controversial decision was made by a lot of El Salvadoran parents at the time; and some still take this risk today because of the conditions that continue in El Salvador, many years after the war officially ended in 1992.
Alma, only 16, survived the frightening journey across the border to join her uncle in California. Once the dangerous trip across the border was completed a new reality set in quickly -- she needed to restart her life in a challenging and complicated new world. For Alma -- as is the case for many immigrants living in the US -- this meant applying herself to physically demanding work instead of continuing her education.
Today a hard-working, single mother of two girls, Alma is a seamstress working in the factory at American Apparel. At 6:15am sharp Alma and her team are ready to begin working, and will produce hundreds of t-shirts, which today are the color grey. When Alma clocks out in the afternoon, she goes home to do the chores around the house, then picks her kids up from school. They make dinner together, and both girls bubble over telling Alma about their day.
Alma’s dreams of getting a degree in El Salvador did not become a reality, but she has made the most of her opportunities. Thanks to an amnesty program, she is now legally a resident of the United States. Here her job pays her fairly and enables her to make an honest living for her family. She never did see her mother again, but if she did she would thank her. The risks her mother encouraged her to take not only saved her life, they helped Alma make her own dream a reality for her two girls. Alma feels rewarded by her kids' successes and brims over with pride when they exhibit the drive to seek out opportunity for themselves. Her daughters Ashley and Katherine follow in their mother's example; they study and work extra-hard to find what they want out of life. The oldest dreams of someday becoming a police officer, lawyer or maybe an architect.
In the United States, so many begin their lives with with doors open to them, and in this light, Alma’s accomplishments may seem fairly ordinary. She lives an honest life, within her means, and works hard as a basis to grow opportunities for her family. I can't think of a better measure for success as a parent, or in life, and people like Alma have been what makes this country great for generations.
There are many reasons why a part of us clings to the past, as time marches on toward our future. We all have memories of times when the pace of life seemed to be more controlled, and things were simpler. The question of who you were was straight-forward and the unknown of what you and the world would become seemed more a hopeful promise than a challenge. Thinking back on these times can make them seem quite a daydream. And a daydream it has seemed to be for many a young boy who saw the Goodyear Blimp in the sky for the first time.
Los Angeles hosts the residency of a rather majestic guest from Akron, Ohio -- one who leaves people with those thoughts of the past. This guest is a symbol, an American icon that has been flying the US and beyond it since 1920. It is the Spirit of America, one of three Goodyear Blimps still in operation today. Goodyear started building these majestic airships in 1920 when commercial flying was still in its early stages. The Goodyear Blimp channeled what was in many ways an American obsession: triumph. During World War II, Zeppelins escorted Navy ships through out their routes on the Pacific. Though there are now larger, more sophisticated, and higher-flying aircraft --- it's a warmly nostalgic indulgence to see that Goodyear has kept the Blimps flying throughout the decades.
Spirit of America pilot David Bowling, first saw the Goodyear Blimp flying when he was about nine years old, and he chased it as long and as far as he could. Early on, David knew he wanted to become a pilot -- but it had never crossed his mind that some day he would fly the Goodyear Blimp. Stealth fighter, Commercials Airlines and private jets sounded much more his speed. But when the opportunity to fly this historic airship came along after years of flying airplanes, he snatched it, and hasn't regretted the choice since. 'It is flying history, when you are sitting up there in the sky," he says.
As Angelenos, we're a bit spoiled to see this American icon floating in the skies. In a city with such a relatively short history, and a tendency to reinvent itself, such reminders of our past are rare. I Am Los Angeles has it on good confirmation that Goodyear plans on keeping this American icon up in the air, and that it will sent out a brand new blimp in the near future...lest we forget who we are and where we've been.
Terrance premiered at Dazed & Confused Magazine: At first he seemed a little shy. Quiet but eager to tell stories, share experiences...but maybe not too much. There is still something opaque about him that signals he's holding back. After a few questions everything begins to fall into place. As a teenager of 17 years, Terrance's life experience has led him through trauma and hardship that most adults haven't had to contend with. He's lost multiple caretakers, and while he's been fortunate to stay out of the foster care system, he grapples with deep depression and post-traumatic stress disorder due to grief and an overwhelming sense of loss. His story so far has been dominated with the need to cope with past and present, though he looks forward to a day when he can comprehend what he wants for his future.
Physical problems in ourselves and in others can be seen, and there's often a doctor who can fix them. Mental and emotional problems are a completely different animal. They can be far more challenging to identify, comprehend, and deal with on your own, let alone ask someone for help. It should come as no surprise that teenagers are a group that is especially unlikely to seek help.
“People ask me why they can’t see my injury when I return from the health center,” Terrance says. He's uncomfortable having to explain it, and fears that other students will perceive him as strange. But it was the individual and group therapies available to him at school that is helping Terrance get his life back on track. The feeling that he is not alone, that is can be normal to feel this way, and especially the fact that there are other people with the same situations and feelings have boosted Terrance’s confidence. The results are impressive: Terrance's attendance and performance at school have both improved drastically, as has his general attitude about his future.
There are of course many more kids and teenagers dealing with similar issues, and all of them deserve adequate support. Early help can make a big difference, not only for the individual but also for the greater society (these kids are our future, after all). With the kind of help offered to kids like Terrance by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), more students are motivated to finish school and lead a productive life. Greater awareness may be called for more now than ever, especially in communities where young males face considerable pressure to join a gang and young females are statistically more likely to confront a teenage pregnancy. See below for more information about the LAUSD program that has helped our good friend, Terrance.
Fresh vegetables, herbs, honey and new eggs every day; Jules and his family are living the farm life. It’s also a most unconventional lifestyle given that their home is in the middle of Pasadena, California. The family struggles to be as self-sustainable as they possibly can—their car drives on biogas, solar panels power their television, and each day they have fresh food from their own meticulously well-maintained crops.
Jules first began his farming life before moving to Pasadena, when he lived for several years in New Zealand. Jules embarked on his current lifestyle after becoming concerned about how the food industry controlled what he and his family ate. Jules wanted to be more in control and minimize his family’s impact on the environment.
Living this lifestyle doesn’t mean that you have to be old fashioned. After a day working on his urban-farm lot, Jules and the rest of the family sit down to watch movies on Netflix or work on one of their many websites. The Devraes family websites center around the idea of living a greener life, and are some of the biggest websites/communities about urban farming. It’s a growing movement; and a green revolution!