You Donít Know Me Until Now
Latino/a Middle School Voices


by Barbara Cervone and Abe Louise Young

Welcome to You Don’t Know Me Until Now! We hope this collection of writing and photography by a diverse group of Latino/a middle-school students will inspire and astonish you.
Beginning in the summer of 2009, 35 sixth through eighth graders—and their teachers— in Austin, Los Angeles, and Oakland volunteered to be part of a three-city project called the Youth Voices Institute, a leadership development and service-learning experience envisioned by National Council of La Raza and designed by WKCD.
If you follow the links below, you’ll learn how these students connect to their place, identity, and cultures. They resist stereotyping and define themselves as complex, creative, growing people. They rhapsodize on what makes them who they are, explore the sensory details of communities they come from, and imagine some facets of the world they want to help create.
You will also see their photographs of their neighborhoods, classmates, and families—woven into short videos.
From start to finish, students talked about the key concerns they want to address as leaders. Safe families in caring communities. Respect and equity for their ethnic groups. High expectations. Healthy food options. A passionate desire to contribute in positive ways.

Do You See Me?

I am not a wetback but if I was,
I wouldn’t be ashamed of myself.
I am from writing that speaks out to people,
that maybe will one day change the world.
I am not a father, and other Latino boys
are also not fathers, though people assume we are.
I am not a gangbanger, a shoplifter, or a trash-picker.
I am an intelligent student
who will go to Harvard or Stanford.

. . . I am from a hardworking family that I see only sometimes, though I know that they’d rather be with me.

I am from Mexico, its people and their delicious food.
I am from a mother that left her home because her father was going to sell her.
I am from a father who wanted some adventures so he went out to see the world.

…I am from the little light that goes through the dark room, that will one day be bright—so bright nobody can make the room dark anymore.

- Gaspar Zaragoza, Jr., Camino Nuevo Charter Academy

You Don't Know Me

You Don’t Know Me Until Now: Latino/a Middle School Voices (PDF)

This 32-page publication presents a selection of poems, essays, and photographs from students at three charter schools: Camino Nuevo Charter Academy in Los Angeles, East Austin College Prep Academy in Austin, and Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland.  All three are part of the National Council of La Raza school network. The PDF also includes a guide to supporting students’ diverse identities through creative writing, produced by WKCD Writing Facilitator Abe Louise Young.

Audio Clips
Click on a link below to hear samples of students
reading their poems and essays out loud.


Short videos

Click on a link below to see short videos by students that combine photos of their neighborhood and audio.

Cesar Chavez Boulevard

East Austin College Prep Academy, Austin, TX

MacArthur Park/Westlake

Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, Los Angeles, CA
Healthy Food

Healthy Eating versus Junk Food

Lighthouse Community Charter School, Oakland, CA

Complete student writing by school (click on image to download PDF)



Kids on the Wire

Shout Outs



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“There’s a radical—and wonderful—new idea here… that all children could and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people’s ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world.”

– Deborah Meier, educator