Human Journey

Community Activism Through Mapping

By: Sunday Simon

Roosevelt High Students presenting to mapping company, Esri.

Say there’s an issue in your community you want to fix. There are the obvious tactics. Maybe you try picketing, talking to your local government, or collecting signatures from your neighbors. But have you ever thought of mapping your issue? That’s what four students at Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles did with the help of the Foundation and the mapping company, Esri.

You can watch a video of students presenting their work about important issues facing their community here. The maps compared median household income and race to show segregation; the number of murals to the number of billboards; and where environmentally contaminated areas overlap with high density neighborhoods.

All the students were told to map an environmental justice issue. Uriel Gonzalez, one of the four students from Roosevelt High, decided to map access to parks in his community. He and his team collected data and focused on three different areas, which were health, safety, and cultural enrichment. Uriel surveyed his community, asking questions like, “Are our parks safe?” and “Is our general population around this community unhealthy because they’re not staying active?”

One highlight from his data compared the green space in his community for the living to the green space for the deceased. “And we were like, ‘Wow, that doesn’t even make up as many of the acres in our cemetery,’” said Uriel.  He reported that the cemetery near his neighborhood is twice as large as all of the parks combined.

Since Uriel presented his project, he’s notice some increased interest in greening his community. He said, “There’s an organization that’s coming in and they want to beautify Roosevelt, and add more green to it. It gives me excitement to know that they’re actually taking it seriously.”


Youth Radio Investigates is an NSF-supported science reporting series in which young journalists collect and analyze original data with professional scientists, and then tell unexpected stories about what they discover. National Geographic News Watch partners with Youth Radio to share the work of the young journalists with the National Geographic audience. Check out more from Youth Radio’s science desk at
  • Joseph Becker

    Met these Young People in San Diego and was blown away. Working with a similar group, the GIS Scholars who are in the running for up to $77K to training and employ Youth to be active in improving Public Safety in their Neighborhoods. Check out their FB page at When they win, They will need Our Help!

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