By Marketa Behn, 17, Stanford University
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I‘m finished! I spent five months researching 60 youth organizations to find out about resources in my community available to teens. That meant five months of calling places, visiting them, leaving countless messages and otherwise hounding them for information. As an L.A. Youth Health reporter, I was being paid to find out information about different organizations in the community who had resources available.

But I wasn’t doing this only for the money (although it certainly did help, especially during the frustrating times). I wanted to see if there were places in the community that tried to help teens instead of speaking negatively about. I was also interested to find out whether teens knew about and were excited about these resources.

Through the struggle, I learned a lot–always keep trying, even if you have to leave three messages on an answering machine for them to call you back! I also discovered that there are many organizations out there that I could have been involved in had I just took the time to do research. I could have applied for and received more scholarships. I could have scored 1460 instead of 1260 on the SAT. I could have learned modern jazz dance and how to play the piano. However, as a ninth grader I didn’t know about the many programs out there and I didn’t make an effort to learn about them. Now I tell my younger sisters about opportunities available to her and I hope to persuade other teens to get involved as well.

Calling teen organizations is hard work

When I was hired as an LA Youth reporter, I knew that I would be making a lot of calls. I didn’t know it would be so hard to get through. I got tired of hearing phones ring and ring only to be answered by an answering machine or worse, by the operator telling me that the number had been disconnected or was no longer in service. Getting through to the other 20 organizations and getting quality information was the highlight of my work hours. Now this was what I wanted to do—talk to people! I liked hearing about the services these places provided. I liked listening to the sometimes energetic people who answered the phone. I knew that if I could get this information to other teens, then they would have better opportunities to get the help they needed.

I know that there are a lot of youth in the community who need help, and who can get help with almost any problem they are facing. There are counseling services available for teenage victims of sexual assault. There are places pregnant and parenting teens can go to if they need help with prenatal care, learning positive parenting skills or if they need help raising their child. There are many facilities that deal with teenage substance abuse. There are even programs open to teenage volunteers who want to help other teens stay out of trouble. And often the majority of these programs are free.

From talking with people at these places, I learned a lot about why they decided to open up in the community. They are there to help and serve teens in the best way they possibly can (remember, that’s why they’re there). If you don’t get a chance to see the Teen Guide, here is a sampling:

Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center

(323) 756-7203
Homework assistance, tutoring, mentoring, GED program for youth ages 8-18

Rosa Parks Sexual Crisis Center

(323) 751-9383
Individual and group counseling for survivors of sexual assault

Mother Net LA

(310) 898-6370
Services and education for pregnant and parenting teens and women

People Who Care Youth Center

(323) 778-8905
Gang prevention, sports, computers and other after-school activities for youth ages 13-17

Planned Parenthood

(323) 223-4462
Assistance with birth control, gynecology services and exams, STD testing, pregnancy testing and counseling, abortion services