Protective Parents vs. Youth In Transition

Post by Kevin Ho

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After spending several days in East Palo Alto engaging with a diverse set of citizens, our team found ourselves with an abundance of images, recordings, and notes to use in order to develop a Point of View. Since we did our need finding in pairs, we began by debriefing as a group on our experiences in the field. In order to focus on the most salient points from our field work, we debriefed using a ‘Top 5’ exercise where each of us took a few moments to look through our own notes in order to pick 5 key moments or insights. We found that doing this activity first was a great way to start a discussion over key stories uncovered in our need finding, without going through all of the content generated from our field work.

Through this exercise, we already began to find common patterns tying together what we each individually thought was compelling about our own experiences in East Palo Alto. The themes that were common to many of our interviews were: sheltering of youth due to security concerns, generational and ethnic tensions, and ownership of space in East Palo Alto. Our team was drawn to the insights around sheltering of youth, as many of our interviewees, from a young Tongan teenager currently preparing for high school to an adult community leader in the arts community, mentioned the impact of sheltering on them. We found a particularly strong tension between the parents’ needs to protect their children and the ability for youth in East Palo Alto to develop an identity within their communities. By protecting their children, parents hinder the ability for their children to have a group to identify within the East Palo Alto community; this is especially concerning especially for youth going into high schools outside of East Palo Alto, as many are particularly affected by negative stereotypes of East Palo Alto as they lack any other identity to hold on to.

Given this tension within East Palo Alto, we created two points of view to guide the ideation process:

  1. S, a single mother of hispanic origin who recently moved to East Palo Alto, needs to trust that there is a place somewhere in East Palo Alto where her young 2 year old son can be protected because even though safety is a shared concern, she feels that she needs to provide it to her son on her own by isolating and monitoring him.
  2. A, an 8th grade honor roll student, needs to embrace a positive identity as an East Palo Alto resident because: 1) the culture clash in non-East Palo Alto high schools often excludes EPAers, driving them to find community in gangs, and 2) her overprotective parents have left her ill equipped to be independent when she leaves East Palo Alto for high school.

While there still remain several assumptions that are unchecked, we chose these two points of view as both focus in on a very particular user while having the potential to affect change elsewhere within the communities of East Palo Alto. We look forward to digging deeper into these two groups in East Palo Alto by prototyping and returning to the field.

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