Gennesis is the Manager of KYCC’s Prevention Education, a program that trains youth to become health advocates, helps parents establish a safe and drug-free neighborhood, and supports leaders and politicians in policy enforcement. She was raised in Koreatown, where she currently lives and works. Her husband was also raised in Koreatown.
Where is your hometown?
Koreatown. I thought my childhood was pretty good because there was a pool in my building. I spent a lot of time in the pool as a child. The closest strolls that I would take were to Carls Jr. on 4th and Western, Yoshinoya on Wilshire and Wilton and Van Ness Park. The best part of my childhood was riding down 4th Street on my bike towards Hancock Park with my mom. For fun.
Even though it wasn’t in Koreatown, I went to Cahuenga Elementary and I remember the pleasant walk to and from school. It was quiet and calm. My husband also grew up in Koreatown, on 9th and Manhattan. First, he lived on 3rd between St. Andrews and Manhattan. His experience was very different from mine. Both his parents and my parents were immigrants, but my mom came at 16 and went to high school here and works for the government. He was from different means. He was more involved in street life, like tagging gangs, but nevertheless, Koreatown is home to both of us.
Do you live or work in Koreatown?
I feel like I came to Koreatown as an infant because I was destined to work at KYCC. What saddens me is that I didn’t know about KYCC when I was younger, because I thought it was just for Korean youth. I never took the time to go in and just ask. When I was in high school in the Valley, my cousin started going to KYCC.
After I graduated from college, I worked in Koreatown for the Camino Nuevo Charter Academy. But I kept stalking KYCC until one day I finally applied. That was February 2014. I didn’t hear back until April and I started working at KYCC in June.
I’m in Prevention Education. I manage KYCC’s alcohol and drug prevention contracts from the County of L.A. We address the high numbers and dense saturation of alcohol outlets in Pico-Union, Koreatown and Westlake. We also address access to youth.
We work directly with youth and families. The majority of our families are low-income Latino families. We meet most parents through the schools; many are already engaged and involved in local affairs. I would like our Latino youth involvement to be higher.
I love my job. I feel like I’m truly giving back and working in my home. Being here at KYCC feels like home. One of my personal dreams is to own a house in Koreatown.
What are your thoughts on Koreatown?
I never felt unsafe in Koreatown. I always had friends here and there that were Korean. I found it fascinating to learn about other cultures and be exposed to different things. For example, for 10 years of my life, my neighbors were Korean. When their babies were born, my grandma took care of them. It was cool that even though we were culturally very different, there was a mutual understanding and respect for one another. I never thought of the stereotypes of how Koreans are. We all just lived amicably together.
My mom never allowed shoes in the house. So people would always say, “What do you think you’re Korean?” When my mom immigrated at 16, she lived in Koreatown at 8th and Western. I guess you see things and you like them and you practice them.
I used to go to California Market when it wasn’t the way it is now, when it was one-story and a little smelly. I used to go and buy Korean melon pops. The cashier was Latino, but he was trilingual—I was so impressed by that. As the years go by, I’ve become aware of how accessible Korean culture has become.
Even though Koreatown is crowded, it’s a safe environment overall. It’s something to be proud of, even though there are so many people in such a small area.
What is your favorite place in Koreatown?
I used to love going to I Love Boba on 6th and Western, but they tore it down to build a huge skyscraper. They then moved to Western between 5th and 6th. It’s a little house. I used to love going there.
But I always loved Carl’s Jr. More so because of the experiences rather than the food. I would always go on a Friday after swimming with my cousins. Or I’d meet a friend there. When I think of something nostalgic about Koreatown, I think of CJ’s.
They recently renovated it. But they always upkeep it and I think that is what I thought was fancy about it. It’s different than if you go to McDonald’s. Carl’s Jr. would always bring the food to your table. That extra little touch. Things like “Do you want more ketchup?” Anyone who ever meant something to me—I bring them there.