For decades, East L.A. has been a neighborhood famous for its gangs. Today, its residents are becoming famous for their environmental and social activism.
In neighborhoods like Boyle Heights (known for its 40 percent high school dropout rate), residents are now working together to make their community—and the world—a better place. The organization Girls Today, Women Tomorrow is a shining example of these efforts as indicated by programs like Projecto Jardin. Situated on a lot that used to house two dilapidated homes and a heap of trash, 250 young women, ages 12-22, are developing a community garden that boasts tomato plants and various chile peppers.
Every weekend 30 young women who are first generation Mexican and Latin-American show up to tend to the garden's plants. As they help with Projecto Jardin, the girls are caring for their local community, growing good food for their bodies to foster healthier eating habits, and reconnecting with their ancestry. Many of their grandparents, for example, can recall growing medicinal plants to use as herbal remedies. "We have some seeds coming from Mexico and we're gonna be having all spectrums of fiber nutrients and things like that that are good for our bodies and for the planet," notes member Celena De Leon.
The organization was founded over 10 years ago by Michelle Deane, whose family has had ties to the community for more than 60 years. Today, girls drop by the Girls Today, Women Tomorrow's Youth and Family Center for classes in yoga, kickboxing, Web site development and video. They stay into the evening to hang with adult women from the neighborhood—teachers, artists, nurses and businesswomen. Girls Today, Women Tomorrow provides mentorships and a scholarship fund to help its girls go to college.