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Inside the Lives of Four Bay Area Teens

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Four teenagers sit on large wooden steps in the lobby of KQED Studios
Bay Curious youth contributors (from left to right) Emiliano Mejia, Yulieth Aguilar, Carlos Escala and Finn McDonald. (Olivia Allen-Price/KQED)

Read a transcript of this episode here.

Adolescence is one of the most fascinating and confusing times in our lives. You’re figuring out who you are and who you want to become, navigating friendships and schoolwork, having responsibilities heaped on you while also not being totally in control of your own life — all while being catapulted toward adulthood. It’s a lot.

Each spring, KQED works with high school students from around the Bay Area to help them produce their own stories across multiple platforms. This year, Bay Curious teamed up with four teens who’ve spent the last few months recording audio diaries to give us a look into this tumultuous time in their lives.

Emiliano Mejia

A teenage boy with shoulder length black hair, wearing an orange sweatshirt. He stands on a small bridge over a creek, holding a camera. Blooming trees are visible in the background.
Emiliano Mejia, on a trip to Japan in spring 2023. (Courtesy Emiliano Mejia)

“I am a senior. I go to Phillip and Sala Burton Academic High School. I think something that might surprise some people is how much I have to say. Because I am actually really quiet. I also kind of like put up like I guess a front of being like kind of stoic, even though there’s a lot of things that bother me, a lot of things that make me feel. I might not show emotions all the time, but like, I feel them.

“My top choice for university is UCLA, which is quite a long ways away from home. Yeah, I am a little nervous, you know, kind of being in a new situation like away from family. But I’m also kind of excited for it because, like, this is kind of like a new start for me. I kind of get to leave my high school self behind and just like, find a new person kind of.”

Carlos Escala

A teenage boy in a tan jacket with dark wavy hair stands on a beach, looking off in the distance as a brilliant orange sun sets over the ocean behind him.
Carlos Escala, taking in a sunset. (Courtesy Carlos Escala)

“My name is Carlos Escala. I’m a junior at Jefferson High School. I [recently got] a new job because I’m going to be getting my license, and I want to have enough money to get a car. I started working when I was 15, and that made me realize that I don’t ever want to be in a situation where money is a struggle. I want to be financially free.

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“So if I start early now, rather than waiting till the summer to get another job, I could get a head start with getting my car so I can do more stuff, which will make transportation a lot easier. I was talking about this today — about how, like, I hated public transportation. I always feel unsafe there because … one time I got assaulted on the bus and, like, it really changed my perspective.”

Yulieth Aguilar

A teenage girl wearing a soccer uniform stands on the field next to a poster of herself. She is holding balloons, including a large number 9, the number on her jersey.
Yulieth Aguilar just finished her final year of varsity soccer. (Courtesy Yulieth Aguilar)

“I’m a senior at Leadership Public Schools, and I live in Hayward. I started playing soccer when I was 6. My dad, he’s always been kind of like into soccer. And I guess since he never had like a son, I was the closest thing that he was going to get for someone to follow in his footsteps with soccer. And since my house is, like, very close to a park, then we started practicing together, just me and him. I guess in a way he was my first coach.

“Soccer taught me that you had to do it yourself if you want things to be done. Soccer taught me that without hard work, nothing comes to you. Because in soccer you have to run for the ball. In life, you’ve got to run for things in order to get them. This year I’m a senior in high school and it’s my last year playing with my high school soccer team. We’re playing for the state championship and we have made it to the finals.”

Finn McDonald

A teen boy with shaggy brown hair stands with his arm on the shoulder of a girl with blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. They are cousins. The teens hold a sign that reads, "Wells, Welcome to West Coast fun."
Finn McDonald welcoming his cousin Wells at San Francisco airport. (Courtesy Finn McDonald)

“I’m a freshman at Lick-Wilmerding High School. One of the dreams I’ve had since I started playing basketball at age 4 was playing in college. And I’ve been really homing in on that goal and kind of turning a dream into a goal. I just finished my first year of high school basketball. I play on the varsity team as a freshman. My brother was a senior this year, so I got to play with him on the varsity team, which was super cool. And now it’s over and that’s super sad. But I’ve been thinking about the idea of instead of being angry and sad that it’s over and that’s gone, kind of appreciate what we had. And I did that. I feel like I’m doing that.”

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