Last Friday, for one day only, the CALÓ YouthBuild Boyle Heights High School parking lot was transformed into a shopping center, sectioned off into departments for children’s wear, toys, books and various other booths, including some that provided information on how to live a “healthier, culturally relevant lifestyle.”
It was YouthBuild’s 2nd annual “Green Friday: A Truly Free Market,” a student led, community event which they call an “alternative to the consumerism and materialism celebrated on Black Friday.”
According to materials promoting the event, students collected slightly used toys, clothing, electronics, home furnishings, tools and appliances for the one-day public marketplace. They cleaned and refurbished the items using non-toxic and green cleaning products, and made them available at no cost to the community.
Not the typical school, YouthBuild’s students range in age from 16 to 24. For many of the students, YouthBuild is a second chance for the young men and women who for one reason or another could not complete their high school education in a traditional high school setting.
“Our students have a lot of challenges…but it is ultimately those challenges and experiences that will make them some of the best possible leaders that can step up and address important issues in our community,” said Social Studies teacher Canek Peña-Vargas.
“Green Friday” was created to address an important issue during the holidays: spending.
“With the way the economy is, not a lot of people have money to spend,” said 19-year-old Amber Duron. “[People] don’t have to spend any money, only a little bit of their time, so they can get the information we have been researching [in our classes] and then they get stuff, one hundred percent free,” she added.
Robert Zardeneta, YouthBuild’s executive director, said students were inspired to create the event by their Economics and Government courses that examine the lifecycle of material goods and the effects of excessive consumerism. Instead of an exam testing what they had learned, students were given the opportunity to put their knowledge to work and they created projects such as “Green Friday” to promote sustainability efforts and support changes in their community, Zardeneta said.
“There’s some really talented young folks and they really care for their neighborhood, and the best way to help them make a change is to put them in positions where they can see this change and feel good about it,” Zardeneta said.
Every booth in the commercial free marketplace was stocked with information the students had researched during their courses, such as healthy eating, HIV awareness, getting into and paying for college.
The event also included free food, a fitness center and children’s activities.
“We give people knowledge, information and tools to better themselves, and at the same time we give them something free that was donated to us,” said Omar Encinas, 24. “It’s very interesting: We exchange products for information.”
Zardeneta said the school, with 124 students, hopes to create more events such as this one, to both bring the community together and to inspire students. He said students at YouthBuild receive a culturally relevant education based on the themes of social justice, community development, environmental studies and projects for the community, Zardeneta said.
“Everything they are learning in school they are putting it in this platform [to give] back to the community.”