Hey folks. Its been a few months since I have posted on this blog. I have been super busy with other projects but I wanted to use this channel to discuss something really dear to my heart.
When I was fourteen my mom wanted to find some kind of weekend activity for me to become involved in. This was an interesting point in my life for many reasons. I was possibly in the apex of teenage angst and was prone to go in any direction. I had just moved to a new school and into my father’s apartment. I was into computers, girls, weed and soccer but not much else. I wouldn’t say that I was an at-risk teen but I was by no means a model teen, or at least I thought.
A friend of the family told my mom about LA Youth, a Los Angeles based teen written newspaper that was distributed throughout the LA area and beyond. There were opportunities to illustrate articles for the paper, something that I had always been interested in. I began to attend the weekend meetings and make friends that came from all walks of life. There were students of many different cultures, teens coming from foster homes, gay and lesbian teens, teens with special needs, private school teens, public school teens. As different as we all were we bonded over a need to express ourselves, to tell our stories.
We were able to write about anything we wanted. My first articles were on Mumia Abu-Jamal, Emergency contraception, homophobia, talking to parents about sex and the 2000 Democratic National Convention. LA Youth was not just about writing. I developed my first website with their comuters, used my first commercial camera, met cartoonists and illustrators from Disney, toured the Los Angeles Times and gained lifetime mentors and friends. I was interviewed on PBS, NPR and had an article and illustrations printed in the Times. This is just my experience with LA Youth. One individual journey out of hundreds not to mention the thousands of teens that have read and been inspired by what we wrote. My involvement with LA Youth made me a better student, writer, and person. There is no way I would be the person I am today if not for this institution.
As an alumni LA Youth continues to be a part of my life. I still keep in contact with many of the writers and illustrators. When I moved back to Los Angeles from Santa Cruz, LA Youth employed me. I know that I can call or email any of the staff, past and present for advice, direction or just a simple check in to this day. LA Youth is not just a teen group or an after-school program, it is a family.
Today LA Youth faces possible closure if they do not receive additional funding. They have always relied on donations and outside contributions and some of those major donors have run out in the last few years. There is more information here as well as some other testimonials. Two Strong Testimonials . Here is an article written by Alumni Jason Sperber @dad_strangeland http://www.good.is/post/how-do-we-prevent-another-l-a-riot-give-youth-a-voice/ . Visit LA Youth webpage too: LA YOUTH
If you can not contribute, spread the word. Share these links and get involved! Thank you so much for reading. Check out this article I wrote on Mumia back in the day too. Me and Mumia – Matt jones