CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
Salinas: California's Richest Poor City, is a special project of Zócalo Public Square and the California Wellness Foundation.
STORY

Salinas Steps Into the Spotlight

Salinas Steps Into the Spotlight

A Local Playwright Is Using Theater to Help the City Tell Its Own Story

Earlier this summer, our theater company—Baktun 12—presented eight shows to audiences of 130 to 160 people. We even had to turn guests away. This is a not a small thing on the east side of Salinas, the Alisal. The community is known for an undocumented …

STORY
STORY

Tired of Throwing Kids Into Prison, I Built a Place to Keep Them Out

Tired of Throwing Kids Into Prison, I Built a Place to Keep Them Out

I Was Tough on Crime for Years as a Prosecutor, but Then Realized That the Kids Who Weren't in Trouble Needed Help, Too

I recently sat in an amphitheater in Salinas and watched students receive their high school diplomas and training certificates from the Drummond Culinary Academy. …

STORY

What Happens When You Give Kids a Voice in the Planning Process?

What Happens When You Give Kids a Voice in the Planning Process?

A Nonprofit Developer in Salinas Listens to Residents’ Needs Before it Builds

Acosta Plaza is a 305-unit condominium development, constructed in the 1970s, which had over the years become mostly rental apartments for farmworkers. It also had developed a reputation as one the toughest neighborhoods in Salinas. …

STORY

Everything I Know I Learned From Drumline

Everything I Know I Learned From Drumline

How Percussion Can Teach Kids to Riff and Break Down the World's Toughest Tasks

Around 7 p.m. on June 10, the Alisal Union School Board was finishing up its meeting at the Jesse G. Sanchez Elementary School in East Salinas when the drummers took the stage. They were elementary school kids, their hair neatly slicked back by their moms, …

STORY
STORY

High Schools Are America's True Melting Pots

High Schools Are America's True Melting Pots

Where I Teach, My Students Have No Choice but to Confront Their Differences—And That's a Good Thing

Most teenagers from Salinas, given the opportunity, are desperate to leave here. We’re a small city that feels like a farm town, surrounded by fields, with too little to do. …

STORY

How Do We Get More Salinas Kids Into College?

How Do We Get More Salinas Kids Into College?

The President of Cal State Monterey Bay Explains His University's Efforts to Attract the City's Young Students—and the Progress That Still Needs to Be Made

Back in 2012, when word got around the Department of Education offices in Washington, D.C., that I would be leaving my role as assistant secretary for postsecondary education to …

STORY

Inspired by Strawberry Fields and John Steinbeck

Inspired by Strawberry Fields and John Steinbeck

The Poet Laureate of Salinas Embraces the Contradictions of His Hometown

There’s something about agriculture that grows the soul.

Fortunately, I could see the strawberry and lettuce fields of the Salinas Valley from the window of my eighth …

STORY

Cesar Chavez Gave Salinas a Sense of Its Own Power

In the new hit musical Hamilton, a frustrated Aaron Burr sings an anthem for all those who are shut out, denied a chance to shape their own destiny: “I want to be in the room where it happens.” …

STORY

Could an Enormous, Central Park Bridge a City's Divides?

In the heart of the city of Salinas sits a nearly 500-acre property known as Carr Lake. While the city’s general plan refers to it as “parkland,” Carr Lake is neither a lake nor a park. It’s farmland, under cultivation in a heavily urbanized setting. …

STORY

My 8th Grade Teacher Changed My Life

My 8th Grade Teacher Changed My Life

Like Many Students in My Hometown of Salinas, I Just Needed a Small Push to Learn How to Push Myself

Forbes says my hometown of Salinas is the second least educated city in the U.S. According to a number of measures, it’s also one of the poorest places in California. But as a college student who grew up there, and still comes home every summer, I feel rich. I owe that feeling to being from Salinas, …

STORY

How Do We Make Salinas a Safer Place?

How Do We Make Salinas a Safer Place?

Amid Poverty, Racial Tensions, and Gangs, I Helped My City Develop One of the First Violence-Reduction Plans in California

How do you make Salinas a more peaceful, safer community?

Trying to help people in this community figure that out is my job. Or jobs. I double as the community safety administrator for the city of Salinas and director of the Community Alliance for Safety and Peace, or CASP. …

STORY
STORY

Police Reform Isn't Always About Confrontation

On May 20, 2014, two Salinas police officers shot and killed 44-year-old Carlos Mejia on Del Monte Avenue in the city’s east side. Within hours, a cell phone video was posted to YouTube that shows Mejia walking down the sidewalk and turning toward the police. …

STORY

Policing My Hometown Is a Labor of Love

Policing My Hometown Is a Labor of Love

A Deputy Chief of Salinas PD Explains the Challenges of Protecting the City He Grew up In

We hear a lot these days about rifts between police and the communities they serve. This is especially true in communities of color. I thought it might be helpful to offer my story as someone who comes from both worlds: I’ve devoted a career to …

STORY

A Misunderstood City, Full of Aspirations

A Misunderstood City, Full of Aspirations

Through Years of Filming Salinas, a Documentarian Saw How Hard People Work to Improve Their Lives

These are the three things I knew about Salinas, California, growing up an hour north in the Silicon Valley: gangs, John Steinbeck, and agriculture.

Steinbeck was often required reading in California schools. …

STORY

My City Isn't a Tawdry Reality TV Show

Every few years, Salinas grabs national media headlines for the wrong reasons: Police killings of criminal suspects caught on camera. Or maybe a sensational courtroom drama like that of our local convicted murderer Jodi Arias. …

STORY

A City, in All Its Cruelty and Kindness

A City, in All Its Cruelty and Kindness

An Emergency-Room Doctor Witnesses the Extremes of the Community He Serves

Mr. Twenty-Something is obviously in pain. His face is contorted and his right shoulder doesn’t look like his left. He’s wearing a tank top, and the complex and colorful tattoos across his upper torso don’t conceal the deformity of the top of his right arm. Where the left shoulder had the expected dome of muscle extending from the edge of his collarbone, his right one is flat. …

STORY
Salinas: California's Richest Poor City, is a special project of Zócalo Public Square and the California Wellness Foundation.