Celebrating L.A. Youth’s 25th anniversary: Alums share what L.A. Youth meant to them
It’s intimidating to walk through the doors for the first time at L.A. Youth, not knowing if our writing is good enough or if what we have to say is interesting. But right away we see that this is a place where we can share what makes us laugh, what makes us cry, what makes us angry, what inspires us, because this is our paper and what we have to say matters. From breakups and school stress, to family problems and questions about our identity, L.A. Youth helped show us that we’re not the only ones going through these things, and that we can help you by sharing our experiences. This realization that we could change the world continues to guide us.
Alana Folsom, Marshall HS (graduated 2008)
L.A. Youth taught me that my opinions shouldn’t be discounted, no matter how silly or unworthy it felt to me at the time. Also, I remember wanting to do a story on a pseudo-foodie club a group of my friends and I had started, and instead of being shot down, it grew into an a thousand-word (Editor’s note: it was actually close to 2,000) article about our lunch time rituals.
Amanda Ly, Keppel HS (graduated 2009)
I learned that I can educate and empower others by sharing my story.
Amy Fan, Temple City HS (graduated 2012)
I would doodle egghead pictures of Mike, Laura, and Amanda during the meetings. Also, I was a pretty egotistical writer (still am,) and L.A. Youth humbled me by making me change my style of writing and correcting the way I wrote.
Andrea Domanick. Harvard-Westlake School (graduated 2006)
L.A. Youth didn’t just give me the opportunity to write about whatever I wanted, it taught me that I could write about whatever I wanted—that just because I was a young person didn’t mean that what I had to say about things like music or politics wasn’t interesting or important. My favorite memory would probably be working with Mike in the office on final drafts of articles—watching him make and explain edits to me and, as a result, seeing the article turn into something I could be proud of, like magic. It’s still one of the most important—and most fun—learning experiences I’ve ever had.
Beeta Baghoolizadeh, Palos Verdes Peninsula HS (graduated 2006)
I still read L.A. Youth because the mainstream media usually neglects opinions from the younger generation. Sometimes it feels like the only mention of high school students is screen shots of racist tweets, even though we know that these rants aren’t representative of the youth voice. L.A. Youth reminds us that to hear their voices, all we need to do is pick up a paper and read.
Brynn Holland, Cleveland HS (graduated 2003)
When I went to college, at UC Berkeley, I learned that a professor used my article on feminism in her classroom. So cool. My favorite memory is working late at night with my editor at the time Libby, on my piece about why I opposed invading Iraq. I remember being hungry and tired and sitting next to Libby editing and rewriting. It was such an important time and an important piece and I was given so much attention and care while writing it. Turns out all my reasons for opposing the war were valid and true.
Caitlin Bryan, Valley Alternative Magnet School (graduated 2010)
My advice to current staffers is … always try to write, even if you don’t know what to write about. The editors are there to help you come up with something. (Editor’s note: when we asked alums to share their thoughts about L.A. Youth we didn’t know that we were closing so some offered advice to current staff.)
Christian Santiago, University HS (graduated 2011)
I was able to take my creativity to the next level by shooting photographs for the newspaper.
Connie Chung, Gabrielino HS (graduated 2005)
My favorite memory is making egg rolls and vegan chocolate chip oatmeal cookies for the holiday party and then publishing the recipes in the paper, but mostly, eating what other people brought (like Guianna’s guacamole!).
Destiny Jackson, Mayfair HS (graduated 2011)
I still remember Amanda always chasing me down about turning in my stories on time, which is all the time—deadlines are TOUGH! I also learned that I loved writing and getting my stories out to the public, because I know there is someone out there that is feeling or has felt the same way I do.
Elizabeth Del Cid, North Hollywood HS (graduated 2001)
Whether I was writing in favor of treating juvenile delinquents like adults or about something less consequential like my beauty pageant nightmare, L.A. Youth encouraged me to speak up and tell readers why. I’m glad L.A. Youth told me not to shut up. My favorite memory probably is the Models of Pride conference because it opened my eyes to a new perspective. It forced me to stop being neutral about LGBT rights, and openly to be an ally and advocate which, back when I was in high school (almost 12 years ago), was kind of the uncool thing to do.
Lia Dun, Marshall HS (graduated 2010)
My favorite L.A. Youth memory is thinking I was finished with a story and then discovering there was another round of edits!
Elliot Kwon, Palos Verdes Peninsula HS (graduated 2011)
Coming from a conservative family and neighborhood, I was never really exposed to different opinions when it came to issues such as same-sex marriage and education until I started attending meetings for L.A. Youth. There I was able to listen to viewpoints and sides of arguments that I had not considered before, and through hearing them I began to question my own viewpoints and whether they were what I actually believed or were just adopted from others telling me what to believe. Through L.A. Youth I was able to formulate my own opinions rather than blindly follow what I was told.
Charlene Lee, Walnut HS (graduated 2010)
At L.A. Youth, I learned how to write, speak, and think clearly–the latter probably being the most important.
Hassan Nicholas, Hamilton HS (graduated 2001)
When I was working alongside youth writers to conceptualize the art for their articles it put me in this collaborative process that was foreign to me. It wasn’t just about my ideas but rather re-imagining someone’s words, thoughts into a visual representation. It felt like work to me, but in a good way. My job as the artist was to create something to compliment the article, not overshadow it.
Jacky Garcia, Lynwood HS (graduated 2011)
I work at a middle school and my students read L.A. Youth as assignments and engage in discussions that bring up topics that they would not normal discuss at other times. It’s great to see that my students are exposed to stories of people that can have very different backgrounds, but deal with the same issues, exposing them to diversity.
Jaime Isaac Conde, South Gate HS (graduated 2004)
Going to the Saturday meetings made me feel like I was more important. It made me feel like I had something to say and to share. I learned that I had more to offer than I thought I did. I learned I could push myself more and be noticed for being a part of something, like being on staff with L.A. Youth.
Jasper Nahid, Hamilton School (graduated 2012)
I had such a great time at every photo shoot I went to. There’s something really cool about getting to see a slice of someone’s life from the perspective of a photographer. It put me in places I wouldn’t have gone to otherwise and let me absorb a lot through the lens of my camera.
Jean Park, Harvard-Westlake School (graduated 2011)
The most memorable moments for me were the weekly staff meetings because after two hours of discussing, debating and sharing thoughts, you realize that every issue concerning teenagers in Los Angeles has multiple perspectives.
Jennifer Gottesfeld, Beverly Hills HS (graduated 2004)
I realized the power of having a platform where I could be heard as a young person, and that even though I was a teenager at the time, the things that I had to say mattered and people would listen. Realizing that my ideas matter has been a lesson that I have carried to this day, always feeling, even when I am the youngest in a crowd, that I have relevant things to say and not being afraid to share them.
Jessica Marin, Culver City HS (graduated 2012)
The weekly meetings were fun since everyone got a chance to speak and the editors were funny.
Josie Valderrama, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (graduated 1991)
When I interviewed people, they treated me like a grown-up. It was different than how I was used to being treated by school authorities. There was a level of respect and consideration there which, unfortunately, was less common within the school system. It woke me up to how we get conditioned in school to be obedient, sometimes almost like prison inmates. I ended up clashing with some school officials because I started speaking out for better treatment. I remember one administrator was taken aback, but then seemed to get it. I learned to believe in myself, to not necessarily take no for an answer, and to keep questioning the status quo.
Kristy Plaza, Duarte HS (graduated 2012)
My favorite L.A. Youth memory is the Christmas party of 2011 because that was when I realized that I was among people who shared my passion for journalism. I was filled with happiness and the knowledge that I was with family.
Maria Khan, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (graduated 2012)
L.A. Youth was a reminder for me of the thousands of students around Los Angeles who are going through so many different obstacles. It’s easy to forget that not everyone your age is in your situation and that your problems are only as big as you make them out to be.
Matt Jones, Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (graduated 2001)
The editors at L.A. Youth saw that I was an intelligent, funny, insightful, confident, handsome (OK OK) teen, when I saw myself as awkward, goofy and lazy. I could interview important people, make cover worthy illustrations and take beautiful photographs. I could write. They helped guide my voice and make it better without intruding on my individuality.
Nicole Bryant, King Drew Medical Magnet HS (graduated 2004)
I have lots of great memories from L.A. Youth, but my favorite memory was receiving letters from other teens. It felt good to know that others appreciated the articles I wrote.
Nova Safo, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (graduated 1996)
Perhaps my favorite memory is my very first with L.A. Youth. On my first day at the newspaper, I was somehow convinced to get dressed in a grungy outfit to model for a fashion shoot for that issue. The chance that the resulting photo, tucked away in L.A. Youth’s archives somewhere, might surface again some day still keeps me awake at night. (Editor’s note: that photo is still hanging up in our office!)
Oscar Rodriguez, Vista HS (graduated 2001)
The best part for me was probably having to work faster to meet deadlines. Even to this day, they have helped me, and now when an editor or a director calls me that they need me to work in a project, I am able to deliver with the work in such a tight deadline.
Paul Uhlenkott, Hamilton HS (graduated in 2007)
Writing the gay pride concert piece really was my gateway into accepting myself as a homosexual man. It helped me grow comfortable in talking about my sexuality and inspired me to learn the stories of others. Never be afraid of any story you feel you need to write. Stories that might seem difficult are important for us to express.
Precious Sims, Central HS in Long Beach (graduated 2011)
I learned that no matter how painful or even joyful your story is, always try to be detailed so that the readers can feel who you are through your words.
Samantha Richards, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (graduated in 2010)
L.A. Youth taught me that in order to succeed I needed to overcome my fears, believe in myself, and take chances.
Sam Rubinroit, Malibu HS (graduated 2009)
L.A. Youth was my first foray into the world of editing, which helped shape my writing style into what it is today.
Sauntrie Abellera, Bishop Conaty—Our Lady of Loretto (graduated 2004)
My favorite memory is meeting Tom Brokaw at an L.A. Youth tour!
Selina MacLaren, West Valley Christian Jr./Sr. HS (graduated 2007)
It’s rare in high school that students are given so much freedom in their projects, and also rare that high schoolers take on projects that aren’t graded. In all the hype of AP exams and SAT scores and track 400m times, it’s nice to have something that doesn’t have a number attached. Observing a juvenile courtroom for a day was fascinating. It was the first time I was exposed to criminal law, which is now a passion of mine.
Seth Rubinroit, Malibu HS (graduated 2008)
L.A. Youth gave me a large platform to showcase my writing.
Shengul Bajrami, University HS (graduated 2001)
I probably would not have pursued college if it weren’t for L.A. Youth and I definitely would not be where I am today in many others ways. I loved the photography workshops and assignments. It was L.A. Youth that sparked my major interest in photography and film and gave me the confidence to express myself through these mediums, eventually leading me to choose my current profession in television. L.A. Youth taught me that there isn’t just one way to do something; that there are endless unique and nonconventional ways to express myself or solve a problem. It’s because of L.A. Youth and mentors like Libby Hartigan that I learned how to write, communicate ideas, work with others on a creative level and truly believe I can do great things.
Solange Rubio, Leuzinger HS (graduated 2009)
Being at L.A. Youth convinced me that I was worth something more and I have much to offer this world.
Stephany Yong, Walnut HS (graduated 2012)
It wasn’t until I joined L.A. Youth that I realized just how little I had seen and understood about what it means to be a young person in a city as beautiful, dynamic and diverse as Los Angeles. I got to hear stories of incredible teens from extraordinary circumstances and others who had really cool hobbies like beat boxing and jewelry making. After my first L.A. Youth meeting freshman year, I was pretty sure that not only was I boring, I had no story to tell that people would find interesting. However, L.A. Youth really emphasizes how everyone, even the boring square like me, was significant and that these young voices have value and are worth listening to. I gathered up the courage to speak up at meetings, and after a few I found that I actually had valuable input to contribute to conversations regarding budget cuts and civil rights.
Stephanie Cruz, Bravo Medical Magnet HS (graduated 2004)
At L.A. Youth I interacted with students from across the county. There were teens from schools just like mine, but there were also kids from private schools, from better funded public schools, religious kids, foster care kids, openly gay teens, and maybe more importantly, adults who wanted to hear from all of us.
Valerian Zamel, Fairfax HS (graduated 2005)
My favorite memory would be working with Libby Hartigan on a story about my father’s death. I’d hit a sort of writers block with the story and we were siting in the office, and she was asking me all these questions about the funeral, and I suddenly started crying, and Libby just sat there, and patiently waited until I calmed down, and after that, everything started flowing, and I was able to describe the experience in a very honest and open way. It’s not the happiest of memories but it’s one I really remember and cherish, that sometimes you have to face very difficult memories if you want you break through to something, and that brainstorming session with Libby will something I always remember.
Vincent Hsia, South Pasadena HS (graduated 2000)
I learned I had a unique voice. It was always there, but I needed someone to show me that it was there and that I could bring it out with my own writing.
Charles Watkins, King Drew Medical Magnet HS (graduated 2011)
I learned that I have no reason to feel embarrassed about being adopted or being a foster youth.
Ambar Espinoza, University HS (graduated 2001)
I thought I wanted to be a celebrity journalist when I first pondered the idea of being a reporter. I quickly learned at L.A. Youth that there are so many important issues to cover and stories to tell. Covering those stories would have a greater impact in helping my community than covering celebrities.
Patricia Chavarria, Cesar Chavez Continuation HS
I was basically invisible in high school, but after my stories people noticed me and my fear of being in the spotlight has drifted away. I’m not as shy or intimidated as I was before. And I learned that I’m capable of turning one plain sentence into two paragraphs with nothing but descriptions.
Shannon Matloob, Beverly Hills HS (graduated 2008)
L.A. Youth took me out of my Beverly Hills bubble of superficiality. I came to L.A. Youth for the “college resume booster” and left with a better idea of who I was and what I wanted.
Victor Beteta, University HS (graduated 2012)
I am a freshman at UCLA, studying Design Media Arts. Before joining the paper my parents didn’t want me to follow an arts career. Once they saw that I had published my work, they realized that it was something I was truly passionate about, and the allowed to pursue it.