Cal Humanities

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more when it is in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

“A Tough Climb:” Emerging Journalist Fellows at Los Medanos College Report on Housing Insecurity in Contra Costa County

This piece is part of a series covering the work of the 2023 Emerging Journalist Fellows.

An estimated 2,372 people experience homelessness on any given night across Contra Costa County, according to the 2023 Contra Costa County Homeless Point-In-Time Count. It’s a statistic that students at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, California addressed as part of California Humanities’ 2023 Emerging Journalist Fellowship program. Through an in-depth reporting series and a student-moderated panel discussion with elected officials and county housing experts, the project gave both campus and community members an opportunity to better understand the current housing crisis in Contra Costa County and discuss ways to address the problem.

A Tough Climb graphic with title text and black background with ghostly images of houses

A Tough Climb Special Edition

As part of the Fellowship program, students published an eight-page special printed section of the Los Medanos College campus newspaper, Experience, distributed both on and off campus and through its companion online news site. With advising from Journalism Instructor Cindy McGrath, Experience Editor-in-Chief Aliyah Ramirez, Staff Writer Ray Kopf, photojournalist Katherine Mustar, and graphic designer Alexis Ramirez produced a nine-part series looking at the contributing factors that lead to homelessness and offers resources to address housing insecurity. The series includes interviews with elected officials from the cities of Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley, and Brentwood, and with Contra Costa County residents experiencing housing insecurity.

Four photo headshots. Aliyah Ramirez, Ray Kopf, Katherine Mustar, Alexis Ramirez
The Emerging Journalist Fellowship team at LMC.(click to enlarge)
Bar chart with percentages on circumstances that lead to homelessness.
Graphic by Alexis Ramirez. (Click to enlarge)

A Tough Climb: A Nine-Part Series on Housing Insecurity in Contra Costa County:

A Tough Climb Panel Presentation

On October 3, Los Medanos College hosted a public panel discussion on housing insecurity in Contra Costa County with 168 members of the campus and local community in attendance. Moderated by LMC Emerging Journalist Fellow Aliyah Ramirez, the panel featured an LMC student who has struggled with homelessness; representatives from a nonprofit community organization that offers housing help; and local government leaders such as the mayors of Antioch, and Pittsburg, and Contra Costa County housing experts.

Woman speaking into a microphone during a speaker panel
Pittsburg Mayor Shanelle Scales-Preston shares city resources with audience alongside Los Medanos College student Reese Clayton during an October 3 panel on housing insecurity in Contra Costa County. Photo by Ray Kopf.

The panel garnered coverage from local media, both print and broadcast, including a report on ABC 7 News:

Tents and red shopping cart in a brown field.
Tents line the empty field behind Los Medanos College, in between Lyle Morris Apartments and County Children and Family Services. Photo by Katherine Mustar.
Portrait of a woman with black hair and grey sweater.

“Public trust in journalism has drastically changed, making it more important than ever for student journalists to tell the necessary stories factually and objectively to rebuild the trust lost. Student journalists are the writers of our future and creating an industry that is trustworthy, but diverse in all perspectives…”

— Aliyah Ramirez, 2023 Emerging Journalist Fellow, Los Medanos College

Emerging Journalist Fellowship

California Humanities’ Emerging Journalist Fellowship program provides student journalists at California community colleges financial and professional support to develop new skills and conduct in-depth local reporting projects. The program is designed to incorporate the insight and perspective of journalism and the context and inquiry of the humanities, to encourage media literacy and civic engagement, and to provide a springboard for California’s next generation of journalists.

First launched in 2019 as part of the national Democracy and the Informed Citizen initiative with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through the Federation of State Humanities Councils, this program has since grown to include partnerships with community college campuses throughout the state.

In 2023, California Humanities has awarded $135,000 in fellowship funds in support of 36 student journalists enrolled at nine community colleges. We congratulate all the 2023 Emerging Journalist Fellows for bringing underreported stories of their communities to audiences throughout the state.