Jeannie was a member of KYCC’s Youth Drug Abuse Prevention Program (YDAPP) when she was a high school student. 

Where is your hometown?

I was born and raised in Koreatown. I’ve lived here my whole life.

Do you live or work in Koreatown? 

I currently attend Bravo Medical Magnet High School in downtown L.A. near the USC Hospital. I went to Berendo Street Baptist Church for preschool and kindergarten, and I went to Wilton Place Elementary School for four years until fifth grade when I went to Wonderland Avenue Elementary School in Laurel Canyon, up in the mountains. Wonderland was always an adventure for me; going up those zigzagging roads made me excited for every day. Then for middle school, I went to Palms Middle School.

I never had a chance to choose what school I wanted to go to because my parents, especially my mom, told me where to go. I always wanted to follow where my friends went, because most of them go to schools like JB or Paul Revere. In a way it made me feel unique because I attend a school most people don’t know. But sometimes it made me lonely, because no one knew much about my school.

Now that I’m older, I hang out a lot in the K-Town area. On special days, we eat out at The Boiling Crab but on simpler days when we don’t want to spend a lot of money, we go to 엄마집 on Catalina and get 설렁탕.

What are your thoughts on Koreatown?

I’ve noticed that Koreatown has changed a lot, especially since I entered high school in 2013. I moved once, within K-Town, but my old neighborhood around Harvard Street was very quiet. When I was young and living there, I would go around the block, which was really clean. I would see old Korean ladies walking their dogs, running, or having a peaceful time chatting. After I moved to the Catalina area, I realized how dirty and dangerous Koreatown is, given that there were recent shootings, or that a girl got raped in the area. My mom tells me a lot about this type of news because she cares about me.

Growing up has also helped me appreciate the diversity of Koreatown. Middle school was a new experience because I thought a lot of Koreans would attend my school, but it was majority white and after three years went by, there were only about six or eight Asians out of around 300 students. At first I was scared, but as I met new people, I became closer to the Latinos rather than the Asians. My best friend from middle school is El Salvadorian and she tried to introduce her culture to me by giving me tamales at lunch. I brought rice and 계란말이, she brought tamales or pan, and we would exchange them.

Where is your favorite place in Koreatown?

My house, especially my room. I live in an apartment building with five side-by-side units. At first glance, my house is very messy, with my dad’s newspapers, baby wipes everywhere (which we use to clean the table), my dad’s mail envelopes all over the desk and all the sauces—간장, 조림 and salts—in the kitchen. I live with my my dad, my mom and my 13-year-old sister.

My room reflects who I am. I love giraffes so I have a lot of giraffe pictures and dolls. But I love all animals so I have a lot of pictures of animals, like chameleons, polar bears and penguins. Flowers, too. I love flowers and nature, so I have a lot of landscape pictures and flower pictures. I like to be in my room because I get to be alone, I can secretly do crazy stuff and talk to myself when my mom and sister aren’t watching. My mom expects me to study for school, like my SATs or APs, but when I’m in my room, I’m often on my phone on Facebook or YouTube, or I draw cartoons instead.