Hello, everyone. My name is Gloria “Jack” Mejia-Cuellar and I am 18 years old. I am a twin and daughter of immigrant parents from El Salvador and Mexico. I was born and raised in Oakland, Calif. I am a debater, a graphic designer, a journalist, and an advocate.

I became involved with the organization People United For a Better Life in Oakland last fall, when I took part in the Oakland Youth Policy Builders. Our youth group worked to create policies to improve relations between Oakland youth and police.

This summer, I joined Youth Greening Oakland, a group that works at local community gardens during the weekdays. This week, my group’s mission was to build an aquaculture garden. Throughout our lectures with Mr. Eric Maundu (owner of Kijani Grows), I have learned a lot about aquaculture. I heard about the aquaculture concept prior to starting the project–I have seen it in action at People’s Grocery last summer–but never did I imagine I would build one myself. I think it’s important to pursue innovative projects like these especially in low-income communities where this kind of education is not readily accessible.

The garden we have built does not use soil. Rather, it uses gravel. It replicates the natural water cycle and is fueled by goldfish, which serve to create our garden’s fertilizer. Today we planted seeds in our garden and washed out the dirt on the roots of our starts.

It has been a rewarding and interesting experiences thus far. Thank you Mr. Tim Bremner at Castlemont, Youth Greening Oakland coordinator Mrs. Frankie Grace, and Mr. Maundu for the opportunity!