Middle school and high school students convened Tuesday in Isla Vista, asking community leaders to acknowledge the need for a safe, peaceful community conducive to their busy schedules.
About 35 teenage students from schools throughout Santa Barbara County presented findings from their survey of 200 I.V. residents indicating that Isla Vistans are overwhelmingly concerned about alcohol, drugs and noise in the community.
For several weeks, the students split into groups and canvassed I.V., asking 200 residents — almost half of which were college students — what they found problematic in the area.
Of the 200 residents surveyed, 88.5 percent said alcohol is a problem in I.V., 84 percent said drugs are a problem and 85 percent said noise is an issue on the weekends.
“Some of my nights when I’m in Isla Vista doing my homework, it can be really noisy,” said one 15-year-old who presented some of the findings Tuesday. “I am a student, too.”
Named “I’m a Student, Too!,” the event sought to remind UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College students that there are younger students in I.V. who attend middle schools and high schools in the county.
In addition to the 200 residents surveyed, the students also asked 100 locals for their favorite thing about I.V., recording responses including the beach, the warm weather, Freebirds and the Children’s Park. Nearly 80 percent of participants said they love living in I.V.
The students spoke to a crowd of about 45 in the St. George Family Youth Center (formerly the I.V. Teen Center), which co-hosted the event with Future Leaders of America (FLA), a local nonprofit that works with low-income Latino/a youth.
“As youth, we want to reduce drugs and alcohol and drug consumption in I.V.,” said Oscar Rojas, 16, a sophomore at Dos Pueblos High School and a member of FLA. “We believe that the best way to deal with these issues is to work as a collaborative team with UCSB, SBCC, the County of [Santa Barbara] and community nonprofits and our families.”
Leonor Reyes, director of the St. George Family Youth Center, said the “general party culture” blinds some students to the families living in I.V.
“I work with a lot of college students who come in [the center] and it’s the first time they realize there are students and teens in Isla Vista,” Reyes said.
The student group recommended three means by which to alleviate the party culture that, at times, hinders students from focusing on homework or falling asleep.
First, make I.V. residents aware of children and teens who live and study within the community; second, increase the media coverage of positive I.V. activities; and third, add classes or programs to UCSB’s curriculum that educate students on the composition and history of the area.
Eder Gaona-Macedo, the executive director of FLA, proposed the creation of “cultural sensitivity training” for UCSB students during freshman orientation, telling them that there are families in I.V. and that “the party isn’t conducive to everyone, especially the young kids.”
Nicole, 15, was born and raised in I.V. and now attends Dos Pueblos High School. She said the noise is the most difficult part of living in I.V., adding that she often sees people smoking and drinking at a park near her house, although the problem is improving.
“Sometimes I’m not able to go outside to enjoy the park,” she said. “I hope it gets better. It’s gotten way better in the last few years.”
Maria, a 13-year-old student at Goleta Valley Junior High, said she enjoys the beaches and getting food with friends in I.V., but gets annoyed by the noise from parties.
“On weekends or holidays — Halloween or Deltopia — it gets really loud, but other days I like living here,” she said, adding that the noise “is frustrating and sometimes keeps me from sleeping.”
A version of this story appeared on p. 1 of the Thursday, April 28, 2016 print edition of the Daily Nexus.