Border returns to normal but remains shaken
S1: How people in Tijuana are impacted by the threat of cartel violence.
S2: People in Tijuana , their takeaway is that the cartels demonstrated that if they want to , they can shut the city down.
S1: I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen CAVANAUGH. This is KPBS Midday Edition. What's behind UC San Diego cutting admissions.
S3: We've had this huge surge in applications , but the UC system hasn't been physically growing as fast as you would want to keep up with it all.
S1: And a look at new development plans for Mira mesa. Plus a story of resilience from a local author. That's ahead on Midday Edition. The San Diego Tijuana border region has returned to a sense of calm after a tumultuous weekend which saw businesses shut and residents staying in their homes due to drug cartel threats. Though the weekend resulted in very little violence , the cartel seemed to succeed in instilling fear across Tijuana and other nearby border cities. Here to tell us more is KPBS investigative border reporter Gustavo Solis. Gustavo , welcome back to Midday Edition.
S2: Hello , Jane.
S1: So you have covered violence in the border region before , but , you know , this weekend's events were something different.
S2: It's different in that it seems performative. And I don't know if that's the right term for it , but it's a show it was a show of force. And I hesitate to call it violence. I mean , it was violent , right ? It was property damage. Vehicles were burned and it disrupted the city. But for a city known for Tijuana City , known for for murder that no one died for. So it's kind of the strange feeling that that everyone's on Friday , everyone was afraid and on lockdown and terrified. But it was a relatively nonviolent event , if that makes any sense. Hmm.
S1: And you spoke with Martine , who is a resident of Tijuana. Here's a little of what he had to say.
S2: He said on Twitter , I mean , I went on a lot of policy making. And like I said yesterday , generally.
S1: You know , as you just heard there , he was scared to leave his house this weekend.
S2: I mean , he was mostly afraid to leave the house Friday night and Saturday during the day , but by Sunday and by Monday. They're still afraid. A lot of people in Tijuana are still kind of uncertain of what the situation will be this week. But they have to return to work and leave the house. They they can't just stay in forever. So so on Monday , when I went down there , most of the businesses were open , but they were they were shaken. You could tell that this was different than what they've experienced in the past.
S2: And at the time , she was seeing on social media and on the radio that there were reports of businesses being burned down. So when she left Friday , she wasn't sure if she was ever going to see her her business again. She came back Saturday , was on the fence about opening and was just still scared Saturday morning. She said she went back. She's in a pretty good location , usually a lot of foot traffic , a lot of vehicle traffic. But she just said it was deserted on Saturday morning and it just felt spooky for her to be there and open it. Hmm.
S2: Right. I mean , the Tijuana's used to the violence. It's a city known for homicides , like I said. So so they've learned to adapt. I think the fear is or the concern is if these public show of force acts continue. Right. Because they shut down the city. I mean , on Friday night , public transportation was shut off. People were stranded. Taxis weren't picking people up down. In a scenario , they shut down the port. So a cruise couldn't dock over there. Businesses were shut down. I know we heard from Kitty about the impact on this side of the border the day after. I think that's more of what they're worried about. Not so much that the day today , I mean , because like I said , right , these unfortunately , Tijuana and the businesses and the residents have had to get used to living with violence for for decades now.
S1: As you've reported , there was very little violence that occurred this weekend in Tijuana , though there was in Juarez , another border city in Mexico.
S2: I mean , Juarez also has a history of violence and and a really gruesome history , specifically with cartel violence. And I know just through Texas , the Texas border seems to be a lot more violent than the California border , at least in the context of both migrants and refugees and asylum seekers. But honestly , I look , I'm not an expert on violence or cartels , so I wouldn't be able to tell you why it was bloodier in Juarez than it was here in Tijuana. Hmm.
S1: Now , on the other side of the border , KPBS reporter Katie Alvarado reported on how businesses on the U.S. side are reacting to this weekend's events. We spoke to her earlier today and she said what stood out to her most was how no one she spoke to wanted to identify themselves due to fear.
S2: I mean , it's fairly common , particularly when when you're working with migrant populations. But in the wake of what happened Friday , I think you can kind of understand. Right. The in some cases , people are more more afraid of the cartel. Then then they have faith in the government to protect them from the cartel. In some neighborhoods , they view the cartel as sort of the de facto authority in that area. So they don't want to upset anyone. There have been in Tijuana recently murders of people who publicly criticized the cartel or speak out against that. So I do understand why people are very , very hesitant to attach their name to any comments , even if they're not critical or indirectly critical of the cartel.
S2: Right. I mean , Tijuana responded by deploying I think it was 3000 military personnel and 2000 police officers. Now , to be clear , a lot of the military had already been there. There's been Mexican military stationed in Tijuana for months now in response to rising homicide rates. So it's not particularly new , but but it's helpful , I think , this time. Let's see how how the situation unfolds. Let's see if more of these days happens. I think more than anything , people in Tijuana. Their takeaway is that the cartels demonstrated that if they want to , they can shut the city down and they hope it doesn't happen again. And they're not sure what to do in order to to make that happen again. Right. I think the ball is kind of in the government's court right now and everyone's just in a wait and see phase right now.
S1: I've been speaking with KPBS investigative border reporter Gustavo Solis. Gustavo. Thank you.
S2: Thank you , David.
S4: UC San Diego is cutting admission offers for the next school year by more than 9000 students. Most of the admissions reductions affect out-of-state and foreign students , but the school also pare down about 1600 California freshman slots. The reductions come at a time when UC San Diego , as well as most other U.S. campuses , are being strained by higher enrollment and facing shortages of school housing. Yet the actual number of students may still increase this year if more of the freshman accepted actually decide to attend UCSD. Joining me is San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Gary Robbins. Gary , welcome.
S3: Hi , Maureen.
S4: So UC San Diego and other UC campuses are facing competing priorities these days. They're being urged to increase enrollment of California students while their housing situations are kind of bursting at the seams.
S3: This is a good news , bad news story. Over the past couple of decades , the number of California high school students who graduated increased very significantly. And the number of those high school graduates who qualified for admission to the University of California system also went up a lot. At the same time , the state's population grew. So you had a higher , larger growing pool of people who could get into the UC system. At the same time , you'll remember like two years ago that the U.S. system dropped the requirement of the A.C.T. and the SAT scores , and that encouraged even more people to apply. So you have this huge tidal wave of students applying to the U.S. campuses. But on the downside , over most of the past 20 years , the UC system budget didn't grow. In fact , taxpayers in general asked that it be cut. That means that you've had this huge surge in applications , but the UC system hasn't been physically growing as fast as you would want to keep up with it all. It's trying to do it now in places like UC San Diego , which is growing by gangbusters. It's incredible what's going on there , but they just can't fully keep up with it. So what we're seeing now is a cut in the number of overall admissions offers.
S4: So UC San Diego actually enrolled more students last year than ever before , isn't that right ? Absolutely.
S3: They had just under 43,000 students. Last year , they added 2400 students almost. That was way above what they expected. All campuses , Marine , have what's called a yield problem. You take an educated guess at what your yield will be. You make a number of offers and a certain number enroll , and you try to guess what that is. But if you're off by 1% , you can be off by 1000 students. So there have been a lot of times in the recent past where UC San Diego simply got it wrong and they ended up with a lot more students than forecast. And that happened last year. It may end up happening again this year. You know , the thing about admissions and that you really don't know what the numbers are going to be until people actually show up at the door.
S4: And the numbers show that historically UC San Diego has not been the first choice of a lot of students who do get admission offers.
S3: And this is according to UC San Diego students. Every year they do a freshman survey , they ask a ton of questions. One of those questions is , was this your first college of choice ? Last year , only 29% said yes. Now , that doesn't mean that they think this is a bad school. It , by and large , means that the U.S. system gets a lot of really talented kids that are applying for all the schools and you can apply to all the U. CS at once rather than to just one at a time. So kids throw out a tremendous number of applications and you know , this may not be their first choice , even though they don't feel heartbroken if that's where they end up.
S4: Now , this year , 131,000 students applied to UCSD and only about 31,000 were accepted.
S3: So this year , roughly 24% of the people who applied for admission to San Diego were accepted. 24%. Last year , it was 34%. I talked to a student from UC San Diego last night who was a stupid student government and he was absolutely floored by that drop. That's a big time drop. So it's become harder at this point to get into UC San Diego.
S4: Now , you've reported on the building boom at UC San Diego as the school struggles to build housing for students.
S3: You may have read , for example , that UCLA went on quite an expansion drive to add a lot more housing and some of that housing opens this fall. So they saw what the problem was and they're doing something about it. Now , last year , 3100 students at UC San Diego got on waitlist because there wasn't enough housing. That got whittled down. But what it primarily did is push people into the open housing market , which was horrible. Now , this year , the university , UC San Diego has a bit more housing , but it's likely have more students as well. They notified students earlier that there was going to be a problem and that pushed prospective students into the market. Like there's like a ton of kids looking around Hoya and Claremont and Pacific Beach to try to find housing. That story hasn't been fully told yet because school's not in session. But I think what we're going to hear is that all these students came back and they're really struggling because the cost of rents around San Diego has done nothing but rise.
S4: Now , with all this going on , the UC system is being pressured to push enrollment growth.
S3: He's chair of the U.S. Board of Regents. He wants to see massive expansion. When I talked to him a couple of weeks ago , he says , you know , we're having a change of thought here. We think the figure should be 30000 to 33000. So expanding even more , which puts even more pressure on the system to build , which , you know , takes them back to the legislature and to the governor to say , give us more money. Now , the governor and the lawmakers seem like they are willing to do that based on things that they did over the past year. But that's going to mean an enormous expansion still. And the chancellor at UC San Diego did something that was unexpected and remarkable. So he talked about roughly doubling the number of beds on that campus , which would make it one of the largest residential campuses in America. He also talked about the fact that some of that housing might be built along the blue line in South County because the university is trying to do more and more to reach out to students down in South County. Now that the blue line links all the way to the border up into La Hoya. That can be done. And the chancellor is kind of looking at the possibility of a satellite campus. He has not committed to anything , but Lieb told the Union-Tribune. You know what ? It wouldn't bother me to see UC San Diego expand to Chula Vista and have roughly 10,000 students in fairly short order. That is a thunderbolt to the people in South County because they've wanted a university for 30 years. And there are some think that that kind of thing could happen because Chula Vista has almost 400 acres of open land available for universities.
S4: I've been speaking with San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Gary Robbins. And Gary , thanks a lot.
S3: Thank you.
S4: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jade Heineman. A year ago today , the Kelder fire burned through the small town of Grizzly Flats in Northern California. The fire destroyed more than 400 homes , about two thirds of the community. A new investigation from CAPP Radio and the California newsroom predicted for decades a wildfire could devastate grizzly flats. But it's plan to protect the town didn't get done. Scott Rodd reports.
S2: Mark Aylmer is one of the lucky ones. His home is still standing , but his view is now mostly scorched trees and empty foundations.
S5: It's kind of lonely around here now.
S2: Nearly two decades ago , the U.S. Forest Service gave a presentation showing how wildfire could level grizzly flats. And they modeled a fire that mirrored what happened last year. They showed a fire that could.
S5: Potentially wipe out our community within 24 hours. It wasn't 24 hours , but it was close in the caldera fire.
S2: So Elmer , a retired fire inspector , got to work. He helped create a volunteer group of residents called the Grizzly Flats Fire Safe Council. They raised money through community barbecues and wine tastings. They wrote grants. All told , they tackled nearly $2 million worth of fire prevention projects. The Forest Service , meanwhile , removed some excess trees and brush , but most of it was miles from town. It wasn't until ten years after the community meeting that the agency announced a plan to protect Grizzly Flats called the Trestle Project. It promised to reduce fuels in overgrown forests and set prescribed fires on 15,000 acres around the community. Fire ecologists say this work is essential to reducing catastrophic wildfires and we don't have any time to waste. But the.
S4: History of the Forest Service and the time that we lived.
S2: There was that everything took forever. Kathy Melvin was a member of the Fire Safety Council. She lost her home of four decades in the Kelder fire.
S4: It would take years and years and years.
S2: For anything to get done. The Forest Service originally said it would finish the trestle project by 2020. The agency later pushed back the date by about a decade. Our investigation found they finished only 14% of the planned work before the Kelder fire , which grew to one of the most destructive blazes in state history. Forest Service officials say they faced a series of hurdles in getting the work done. Pushback from environmental groups , staff shortages and climate change , which has reduced opportunities to set prescribed burns. But the biggest problem , they say , was money. You know , let's not make any bones about this. We do not have the funding to do the level of work that needs to be done out there. Randy Moore is chief of the U.S. Forest Service. He's optimistic that billions of dollars recently allocated by Congress will jumpstart this work. He declined to weigh in on whether completing the trestle project would have protected Grizzly Flats.
S3: I'm not really sure you know , why we keep talking about that question.
S2: Others had a lot to say. We spoke to a dozen sources , including wildfire experts , career firefighters , residents and former Forest Service officials who believe Grizzly Flats would have stood a better chance of surviving the fire if the Forest Service had finished the trestle project. That includes retired District Ranger Dwayne Nelson , one of the project's key architects. I think there would have been a very high probability that Grizzly Flat would not have burned in the elder fire. It could have meant survival. Last year , he watched as the Kelder fire consumed his former district. I'm not going to say I felt guilt , but what I did feel was remorse. Nelson says he's proud of the plan his team laid out to protect Grizzly Flats. And proud of the work that had gotten done. But he says there was still plenty left to do when the caldera fire devastated this small community.
S4: That was Scott Rodd reporting for the California Report.
S1: One of San Diego's most car dependent neighborhoods could one day be a beacon of pedestrian friendly urban design. That's according to a recently unveiled plan for San Diego's Mira mesa neighborhood. The changes , first reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune , are set to be considered by the city council this fall and could drastically change the layout of an area that many say is a textbook example of outdated urban design. Joining me now with more details of the plan is Jeff Stephens , chairman of the Mira mesa Community Planning Group. Jeff , welcome to Midday Edition.
S2: Thank you.
S1: Let's address the elephant in the room first. Mira mesa is flanked by highways and far from the city's core.
S2: There are a few other pedestrian improvements along the major roads. But I think to say it's turning the whole community into pedestrian friendly areas is a bit of an overstatement. It's actually not that bad. Currently , I mean , I walk all over the all over the community and it's , you know , it's not a bad place to walk in. Although you , of course , don't want to walk on the major roads if you can avoid it.
S1: One of the most notable parts of this proposal is to increase the population of this region by about 50,000.
S2: The city is not actually building any housing in this. What they're doing is rezoning the shopping centers and a chunk of central Mesa from commercial industrial to a mixed use , housing and industrial. It's feasible in the sense that if in fact the property owners and developers wanted to do what is in the plan , it could be done. Whether they actually want to do it or not remains to be seen. The you know , the surrounding Mesa , for example , is a big economic engine for the community in the city. And although a few developers have expressed some interest in building housing there , it's really the biotech industrial that is driving things over there at the moment , and they're focusing on the industrial uses more than the residential uses.
S1: Another interesting aspect of this plan is the proposed construction of an aerial skyway.
S2: I think it's a nice concept. It does require considerable money to do it. And whether that money will actually be available or not remains to be seen. It's in a SANDAG plan , but there's no funding for it in the , you know , in the foreseeable future.
S1: Now , you've said that this plan contains a lot of magical thinking.
S2: You know , this guy was a good example , though. I like the concept. It's not clear that the public is willing to pay for that. And there are a lot of other things. Also , as I said , there's a lot of hype about vibrant and pedestrian friendly and things like that , that if you actually look at what it does , don't quite live up to what's been said. The main issues we have with the plan are its short on public facilities , its short on parkland. When we did the last community update in the late 1980s , we added a lot of parkland. We worked with developers to see what they wanted to build and we estimated the future population quite accurately. And so because of all that , we got a community plan that very closely matched what the development would actually be. And if you look at the community today and the community plan that was approved in 1992 , they're very much the same. So I really don't have that feeling about this one. The housing is dependent on the landowners and developers doing something that's really the city's concept rather than than their concept. The public facilities have been short changed and so there are a lot of issues like that. Plus , the city has just changed the funding mechanism , whereas it used to be that developer fees that would be paid by development within the community would stay here and pay for building public facilities. But with the parks masterplan and the infrastructure plan that was approved last week , that's no longer the case. All the money that comes in from developer fees will go downtown and be used wherever the city decides to spend it.
S1: This plan highlights the disparities in modern day urban planning versus what was prioritized in the past.
S2: And when the community was first built , it was built without schools , without commercial developers just came out and they started building houses. But a lot of those problems were solved fairly early on by the time I moved to Mesa in 1980. The major schools had been built. A lot of the commercial development had come in in the community center. Some of the parks had been built. And then when we updated the community plan in the late 1980s , we were able to add more , more parkland and fix a lot of the remaining problems. So I think we actually have a good community today where we're still growing through the new developments in Kearl Canyon , where the gravel mining operations are being phased out. And we're building some 6000 new housing units down there. We do have some issues. The traffic is too heavy now and unfortunately , under the proposed plan , it would get even worse. But in general , we have a good community. We have a good park system for the population that we have. We have upstanding schools , and most people who live here are very happy with it.
S1: I've been speaking with Jeff Stephens , chairman of the Mira mesa Community Planning Group. Jeff , thanks so much for joining us.
S2: Thank you very much for listening.
S1: Travel and the way it grounded to a complete halt when the pandemic began was one of the most immediate changes we all saw in our lives. And yet , if you look at daily departures and arrivals right here in San Diego , you'll find that the surging number of summertime air passengers is matching figures not seen since late 2019. The high demand in the face of lingering COVID concerns spells out a clear point. People miss travel , and they're not going to wait for the pandemic to end to do it. So what's changed then ? Well , here with some reflections , advice and perspective on travel in the age of COVID is one of the most recognizable voices on the subject Rick Steves , author and host of Travel with Rick Steves. And Rick , welcome to Mid-day Edition.
S2: Thanks for having me , Jed.
S1: So first things first.
S2: And what went through my mind was we had 24,000 Americans signed up on Rick Steves bus tours for that summer. And we had to cancel those tours and refund all that money and break all those travel dreams. And it just was it was heartbreaking. But I knew that no pandemic lasts forever , and we kind of hunkered down and decided we're not going to be traveling for a while. And thank goodness now. And actually , since , you know , since the beginning of this year , travel has sprung back with with quite a vengeance.
S1: People are really easing back in to travel at their own comfort levels.
S2: And , you know , back then it just felt like there's two kinds of travelers , those who are vaccinated and those who are not. And if you're fully vaccinated and boosted and you just knew the bureaucratic hoops to go through , it felt to me that it was a very reasonable time to travel. On the other hand , I knew that for a lot of people it was something they couldn't relax. And if you're if you're anxious about something , you should probably wait until things calmed down. But people did started going back. Late last year. I've been to Europe four times since then. I didn't travel at all for two years. I spent 100 days a year in Europe ever since I was a student. And so this is quite a change for me. But now we're all back to pretty much back to normal. And for me , the good news is that the vibrancy sort of in the streets , the energy of Europe is back. If you're dreaming of a paseo in Spain or the passage fado in Italy or licking a nice cream cone on the piazza in Florence , you've got it. If you want to go to a beer hall in Munich or clink glasses in a pub in Ireland , it's there. The question now is , are you comfortable taking the slight risk of getting COVID on the road ? Or if you're not , do you want to wait until next year ? I'm going to Europe. Next week I'm going to be barging through Burgundy and then hiking through the Swiss Alps. And I can hardly wait. I'm being more careful than most , you know , I'm going to be wearing my mask when I'm indoors. I'm going to be avoiding unventilated and crowded places , but I'm going to be enjoying Europe like I have several times this year.
S2: I was looking for Jade , and it wasn't a single country , but it was the energy. The thing I love about Europe is the energy in the streets , the vitality. And my concern when COVID hit was that all of the little entrepreneurial ventures , the the labours of love , the mom and pop , you know , guest houses and cafes and restaurants , I didn't think I thought they very well might not be able to survive two years of no tourism. And , you know , that's what distinguishes a Rick Steves guidebook is all of these cute little , little , vibrant places where you have those intimate experiences with local people , not not chain restaurants and high rise hotels , but little funky one off places. And I went to Europe just this last couple of months to update my books with my other researchers. And I was afraid we were going to be raking away the corpses of all these dead businesses that I just knew and loved so much. And thankfully , they survived across the board. They survived. That was just it's far better than what I expected. And these little mom and pops and these little , little charming , you know , places where you can become a temporary European , they are just exuberant now. They they've gotten through the difficult times and they're booming and that vitality is there. So to answer your question , I want to go anywhere in Europe and I want to be out there in the streets and enjoying that vitality. And we can before.
S2: Be nimble. Don't check a bag. Carry on your bag. I never check a bag. Nine by 22 by 14 inches is my limit. That's what you can carry onto an airplane , get to the airport a couple hours in advance. Always book your connections with lots of time between the flights when it comes to traveling around in Europe. Remember now as a. Close to a few years ago. Major sites generally require a timed entry. Do your homework. Find out when you go to a city. Is it necessary to get my museum reservations in advance ? I just updated the chapters for my guidebooks in the top 15 cities in Europe. I spent six weeks doing that and the beginning of each chapter. Now I have a little sidebar that says , If you're going to Amsterdam or if you're going to Vienna , if you're going to Venice and you want to see this , that , or this , you need to get your reservations online in advance , pay for it with a timed admission , then you won't be frustrated. Then you'll walk right up to the turnstile and you'll step in. For years , when I went to Amsterdam , I would just walk by Anne Frank's house just for kicks to see how long the line was. It would be 200 yards long. Now , when you walk by Anne Frank's house , there's 20 or 30 people outside the door because they haven't a timed entry and every 20 minutes 30 people go in or something like that and the chaos is gone. It's more efficient , but we need to embrace that new sensibility of outside things. So don't don't be hesitant to make your reservations for the blockbuster sites in advance. And those are just the big sites. Most sites you can just walk right in. But , you know , this is the nature of our travel these days. We all want to see the same things , usually at the same time. And if that's if that's you , you better make a reservation.
S1: And , you know , being able to travel is such a privilege and one that's really enlightening.
S2: And it's the book that I think has had the most impact. I just produced a TV show called Why We Travel , and it aired all over the country on public television. And they both have the same theme. You know , the whole beauty of travel is getting out and getting to know our neighbors. We are 4% of this planet , we Americans , and there's 96% out there. And I've spent 100 days a year since I was a kid , you know , getting far away from home. And I realized that you need to broaden your perspective through travel. You know , there's a lot of people try to avoid culture shock. To me , culture shock is a constructive thing. It's the growing pains of a broadening perspective. And these days here in the United States , there's a lot of fear. And the most frightened people are the people with no passports , the people who are afraid of what's out there. You know , the flipside of fear is understanding. You gain understanding when you travel. For me , travel is a really important act now more than ever. And I like to go far away and I can look back at our country from a distance and learn more about it. And I can bring home that most beautiful souvenir , a broader perspective and an understanding that the world is filled with beautiful people. It's filled with joy , and it's filled with love. And if you don't know that , then you're watching too much commercial television.
S1: I've been speaking with Rick Steves , author and host of Travel with Rick Steves. Rick , thank you so much for joining us.
S2: Thank you for having me. And happy travels. And.
S1: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen CAVANAUGH. Born to indigenous working class Mexican immigrants in San Diego in the 1970s , Jesse Leon's childhood was violently altered , changing the trajectory of his life. The systems in place meant to help failed him. Despite that , Leon's journey led him to the steps of Harvard. Now creating change within the systems that once neglected him. He shares his story of resilience in a memoir called I'm Not Broken. Jesse , welcome to Midday Edition.
S3: Thank you. I'm happy to be here.
S1: And I want to give a warning to our listeners. This interview includes descriptions of sexual violence. Your memoir starts with a dangerous encounter you had at a local gift shop when you were just 11 years old. Can you tell us about that experience and what it led to ? Yeah.
S3: When I was 11. I can without giving away the story in the book. But when I was 11 , I was sexually abused. I walked into a gift shop in San Diego to purchase water balloons for a water balloon fight. Other kids put money together and they sent me. I was a nerdy one , the one that always got picked on and told what to do to go buy water balloons. First I went to the local. I want to say it was Safeway. At the time they didn't have any. And so I drove around , found this gift shop and. I walked in and asked the person for water balloons. And then that led to. A horrific , violent encounter. He told me that he was busy attending to other people. And he told me that the water balloons were in the back storage room and to feel free to go back there and find them in a box. And next thing you know , when I went back there , there was the box was sealed. And I turned back around to go tell them if I had permission to open the box and was punched and. Brutally sexually abused. And that led to. Three years of sexual abuse in the storage room of this gift shop and eventually other people. Joining in. In three years of sex trafficking.
S1: There were systems in place meant to help people experiencing what you did , but they didn't work. And I want you to tell me in what ways they failed.
S3: In Spanish , we don't have a word from the last. My last in Spanish means more or less time , which means to bother. So I'm trying to explain to my mom that I'm being molested. And she wasn't getting. And so finally , when I screamed at her that they were molesting me sexually , I saw the reaction and how how horribly it impacted her. And then I was placed with a white therapist in downtown , and she refused to hire an interpreter. She was getting paid a lot of money at that time for our 45 minute sessions. And in spite of being in therapy with her from 14 to 18 years old , what many would consider the major saving grace I gave the state , put me in a program , and I went downhill. She knew about the sex work. She knew about the substance abuse. She knew about me getting high me party and did nothing. Never once recommended drug and alcohol treatment. Never once asked to meet with my mom , my parents. And in spite of my mom requesting family meetings , it was constantly shut down. And so when I talk about falling through the cracks and the system failing me , being overlooked by state state sanctioned programs that were intended to help victims of abuse , in spite of being in the supposed programs , I still spiraled into cycles of substance abuse , sex work and suicidal ideations.
S1: I mean , you know , with with all of the challenges that you've experienced , you still you found yourself on the steps of Harvard University. I want to know how you got there.
S3: And that's where I ended up. And I was 18 years old. And so I hit bottom. I remember crying under a bush. I remember I was cleaning some leaves under this bush to where to rest my head and stop the noise in my head of just telling me to kill myself. And how did I end up here ? And I remember thinking back , I was just an 11 year old kid who wanted to read National Geographic magazines. I would get lost in encyclopedias. I would read dictionaries. I would have a dictionary next to me in case I didn't understand a word in an encyclopedia , and I would get lost in books. But I remember being under this bush ball park and just crying , looking up at the sky through the branches and asking God , why me ? And luckily I had somebody I was dating and I had a girlfriend at the time , and she picked me up a few days later and we had an argument about me being a drug addict , and she threw the yellow pages at me and she said , You need to find help. I don't know where I had heard about Narcotics Anonymous , but I looked up Narcotics Anonymous in the Yellow Pages and found that any hotline and I called and someone picked up the phone and they told me where to go to my first meeting. And I didn't stay right away. I struggled my first month , but I eventually got clean and sober at 18 years old. And how I got to Harvard was one day at a time practicing the principles of recovery. Getting a sponsor working starts suiting up and showing up in spite of myself and allowing other people to love. Eventually allowing other people to love me taught me that I was worthy of being loved. And I learned how to love myself again. And I started going to community college. And so then I ended up applying to UC Berkeley. Pretty much got a full ride. And so one day I applied. There's a lot that happened in between , so you'll have to get the book to read it. But I applied and I didn't want to apply to Harvard and someone told me , she said , Don't listen to the noise , Jesse. Just apply. The worst thing they could say is no. And I got into Harvard , and that changed my life forever. Hmm.
S1: And now you work as a social impact consultant , helping investors and foundations find ways to address issues of substance abuse , addiction , affordable housing and mental health. I mean , you've really managed to take your trauma and use it to help others and institutions even.
S3: Is. Hey , Jesse , don't give up. It's not going to be an easy road , but you're going to find your group. You're going to find folks just like you , and you will not be alone in your journey. And you're going to turn these scars and these experiences that you were going through and you're going to turn them around and create hope for others , and that you're not the only one. You're not broken. That hope is real and there is a better way to live.
S1: I've been speaking with Jessie Leone , author of the memoir I'm Not Broken. Jesse , thank you so much for sharing your story with us today.
S3: Thank you , Jade. I really appreciate you taking the time and for KPBS Midday Edition for having me on here to be able to speak about my memoir , I'm Not Broken. Thank you.
S1: And Jesse Leon will be speaking on two panels at the Union-Tribune Festival of Books this Saturday. The first is an English language panel entitled Memoirs on the Edge at 10:30 a.m.. The second in Spanish historians , immigration will be at 3:30 p.m.. If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide or a behavioral health crisis , the number to call is nine , eight , eight.