Youth Leader Roberto Brings Awareness to Transportation and Housing in San Mateo

yli is My Story

Roberto Cerrato, 16, is a freshman at South San Francisco High and has been a YLI participant for the past year leading our public transit efforts. Roberto wanted to get more involved in his community and was looking for a space where he could be himself, find a second family, and work together with his peers to achieve a goal. He found that space in Youth Leadership Institute.

Movement and change are two driving factors for Roberto, who is a determined and focused young person aspiring to be a surgical technician in the future. Roberto was born in El Salvador, and moved to South San Francisco at the age of 8. His family later moved to Brisbane, CA when he was in middle school where he was part of a Skyline College program that introduced him to careers in medicine. Drawing from his experiences and seeing his grandmother’s lack of access to healthcare services, Roberto is drawn to this career to interact and help close this gap in the future. His servant leadership has led him to be a strong youth advocate for our public transportation efforts in South San Francisco and in San Mateo County.

When he started high school, his family moved back to South San Francisco. Most recently, South San Francisco has experienced the impact of gentrification and economic development. Roberto’s family had to move to Hayward, CA, across the San Mateo bridge in the East Bay, in order to afford housing. His day starts at 5am to get ready for school, then his Dad drives him to Hayward BART station, where he takes an hour and 8 minute BART ride to San Bruno BART station, and then a 15 minute walk to South City High. At the end of school around 3:00pm, Roberto starts his journey back to Hayward and gets home around 6:00 or 7:00pm.

Roberto finds the silver lining in knowing he is able to independently get around the bay. During his commute he is able to finish his homework, listen to music, and edit drawings on his phone. Nonetheless, he wishes that public transportation from Alameda County to San Mateo County could improve for commuters. He is hopeful that his involvement in Transportation Equity Allied Movement (TEAM) can reveal the intersections of housing and access to public transportation in San Mateo County.
When asked, “What kind of world do you dream of for youth in the future?” Roberto responded with: “A world where youth will not get judged, where they are respected for their opinions, and a world where youth have a greater voice in issues that affect both adults and youth.” Being part of YLI facilitates this process and supports young people in creating change in their communities and continues to give Roberto a space where many points of views can coexist, where meetings are fun, and where the people he works with are great.

Roberto and his mother are public transit riders and took this photo on a recent bus ride.