About The Highland Avenue Project

The multimedia project takes in-depth look at pandemic’s impact on National City’s family-owned small businesses

Gabriel Schneider and Susana Serrano interview Family Decals Ana Rozo

Student journalists Gabriel Schneider and Susana Serrano interview Ana Rozo, a small business owner inside Price Breakers on Highland Avenue. Photo by Vicky Pineda/City Times Media

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

The coronavirus pandemic hit underserved communities in the United States the hardest and Latinx entrepreneurs had to adapt to new challenges to keep their businesses open. 

Despite the efforts of local governments to provide assistance and resources, some smaller businesses were unable to get financial help and had to rely on savings and other emergency funds to stay open.

A team of student journalists from San Diego City College spent the spring semester reporting on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on National City’s smallest Latinx-owned businesses as part of the Democracy and the Informed Citizen Emerging Journalist Fellowship program.

The fellows selected were Katia Pechenkina, Vicky Pineda, Gabriel Schneider and Susana Serrano.

California Humanities LogoThe statewide initiative was aimed at providing California community college students on eight campuses with an opportunity to share their perspectives and practice journalism skills. In addition to City College, seven other campuses participated, including Bakersfield College, City College of San Francisco, De Anza College, Los Angeles City College, Riverside City College, Santa Rosa Junior College and Shasta College.

It was funded by California Humanities and included training, mentoring and financial stipends. 

The student journalists selected for this inaugural cohort were experienced editors and leaders for City Times Media, the award-winning student-produced digital news platform at City College. They come from diverse backgrounds and bring unique skill sets that complemented each other and allowed them to broaden their experience.

Fellows spoke with National City officials, as well as small business owners in the community, and analyzed national, state, county and city data. 

The students primarily worked remotely with the exception of occasional field reporting to conduct interviews with business owners. The students followed the state and local guidelines on mask wearing and social distancing. 

They then collaborated on a multimedia project that brought together an enterprise story with interactives and data visualizations, five small business profiles, a podcast featuring the mayor, a video story and photo gallery.

They used a range of web-based tools including Flourish, Thinglink, Google Maps, Canva and the Adobe Creative Suite.

Special thanks to Jonny Rico, who assisted with translations throughout the project.

To find out more about the project, click here.

Note: Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project by City Times Media do not necessarily represent those of California Humanities.

Project updates:

• July 5, 12:30 p.m.: The name of Matt Wray was corrected in one story and related images. City Times Media regrets the error.
• July 5, 11:40 a.m.: The website for La Rumba Barbershop was updated based on new information.
• July 9, 5:48 p.m.: Spanish translations of all stories were published and linked to English versions.
• July 14, 5:13 p.m: The name of Dream Crystal Gifts was corrected in two stories as well as in all related translations, images, and story tags. City Times Media regrets the error.