Save L.A. Youth
After a quarter century of providing L.A.’s only independent voice for teens, L.A. Youth needs your generous support RIGHT NOW. We’ve raised nearly $200,000 in just two weeks of fundraising but we still have a long ways to go to meet our $500,000 fundraising goal.
L.A. Youth was that place for teens from all over the county to learn about each other in ways we never could otherwise.
—Machiko Yasuda, graduated 2004 and now a professional journalist
lLocke HS teacher Jerica Coffey explains how L.A. Youth is helping her students become better writers and thinkers and showing them the power of their voice.
Others alums and current staff explain how L.A. Youth has been so valuable to them:
If you lived in Los Angeles on April 29, 1992, you remember where you were when the city began to burn.
I’d just turned 18 and was two months from graduating from Los Angeles High School. I grew up in Koreatown, the biracial son of two public school teachers living in a multiracial, middle-class neighborhood in the center of the city. I saw Los Angeles as a city of diverse voices telling their own personal, yet interconnecting stories in a beautiful multitude of languages. And because of my involvement in L.A. Youth, a nonprofit youth newspaper founded in 1988, I knew that it was important that my classmates and I share our voices….
The stories L.A. Youth’s 80 current student journalists are producing, like surveying 1,850 Los Angeles County high school students on how education budget cuts are affecting them, expose the truth about what’s happening in Los Angeles today in a way that wasn’t possible 20 years ago. The spotlight the paper recently shone on the disproportionate truancy ticketing of students of color in lower income neighborhoods by the police helped bring about an end to the practice. Through their stories—and the way they travel on social media platforms—today’s student writers are speaking truth to power and fighting for their peers, for their communities, local organizations, and for themselves.
—Jason Sperber, graduated 1992 and now a writer and father, excerpted from an essay he wrote for Good Magazine
I grew up in a privileged neighborhood—a bubble, if you will—and attended a nationally recognized high school, but it fell short in providing opportunities to step outside of my comfort zone. Staff meetings at L.A. Youth pulled me out of that bubble and engaged me in critically discussing important issues and current events: the educational system, the war in Iraq and protests against it, prejudice and racism. L.A. Youth was a special place—our staff meetings reflected the diversity of Los Angeles, and each student served as an ambassador representing a different corner of the county. We compared experiences, shared ideas, and claimed our identities in those two hours. But even more importantly, our discussions did not end with the meetings. We picked up our pens and wrote.
Starting junior year, I made the one-hour trek every Saturday out to L.A. Youth’s office to meet with my editor and other student staff writers. I was first invited by a friend to attend a staff roundtable on Islam in America in 2004, just three years after the tragedy of 9/11 and a year after the Iraqi invasion. At that point, I had experienced problems in school already. Two of my teachers had made anti-Islamic comments at me, and many of the Arabs at my school had graduated early to escape. That roundtable meeting was the seed to my article, where I wrote about the issues I faced as an American-Muslim post 9/11. For the first time, I wrote my story, and people responded. I had begun a discussion that I couldn’t have at my high school.
Later, when I worked in at Jordan High School students in Watts while going to UCLA, I encouraged my students to explore their identities through writing, just as my editor had taught me.
What will be of L.A. without this newspaper? A city with silent youth.
—Beeta Baghoolizadeh, graduated 2006 and is now finishing masters at UT Austin and will start PhD at the University of Pennsylvania this fall
L.A. Youth is a big cause of the success I have today. Working with Editor Amanda Riddle over the past year has been great. We have had writing sessions so intense that I will remember something that I completely forgot about. I was always into writing and wanting to make a move with my talent but I didn’t have that courage until joining L.A Youth. Not only have my writing skills improved but so has my confidence. I feel like I’m getting a lot off my chest and learning at the same time when working with Amanda, something you definitely cannot do while in school. You don’t get to tell your teachers your personal problems in English class because it’s a classroom. This is your own personal classroom where you grow, vent and learn. I always seem to realize the person I’m becoming a bit more when writing articles with L.A Youth and it helps me look back at things and grow from them. If L.A. Youth closes you will be taking something valuable away from me as well as other teenagers.
—Foster youth Precious Sims, Central HS (Long Beach)
It’s just a really important outlet for a lot of teenagers. Usually you’re in your own little world. But when you get letters from random people, it opens your eyes. You realize there’s a world out there and people are feeling the same way I did.
—Oscar Rodriguez, graduated 2001 and is now a graphic designer (quoted in Los Angeles Times article)
L.A. Youth facilitated many “first times” for me: the first time I attended a war protest; published a news story; photographed an event; visited a TV news station; cooked cornflake chicken; met a teen who was in foster care; made friends with teens who liked punk music and wore studs; talked to a teen who was and remains a thoughtful (black) Republican; met students who lived in poverty; and the first time I became friends with an adult.
I joined after my sophomore year of high school and spent that summer writing, thinking, and talking to students from all over L.A. And until L.A. Youth, I didn’t know how to describe myself. I didn’t yet have words to accurately describe what it was like to grow up as a Latina. L.A. Youth helped me find that voice and I have never doubted it since. This organization should continue to exist because it provides students with dedicated mentors who teach critical writing and research skills they often can’t find at school. I can’t imagine L.A. without L.A. Youth -thank you for providing this and so much more!
—Guianna Henriquez graduated 2004 and is now finishing her first year at Yale Law School
Around three weeks after I began writing for the school paper, I picked up an issue of L.A. Youth. It was catchy and hilarious. I found interesting stories, reflecting not only my experience as a teenager, but as an Angeleno. It had a call for new staff that weekend and I went. Seven years later I still maintain ties to the paper that helped me not only express myself, but helped me grow as a student. I credit L.A. Youth with sparking my interest in the world (a vital curiosity for an anthropologist), for introducing me to two of my best friends, and for shaping me as a writer and as a person. I never ventured into journalism thinking it would be my career, but I have never regretted that choice made in high school. Had I not, I would never have found L.A. Youth and the amazing experiences and people I still love and read about to this day. Save youth journalism, if not for the inner-city kids that seek it for expression, then for those who read it as a reminder of the promise L.A. still holds.
—Stephanie Cruz, graduated 2004 and is now finishing her first year at the University of Washington where she’s getting a graduate degree in anthropology
No other organization like L.A. Youth exists. L.A. Youth has become a big part of my life. I enjoy attending the weekly meetings because I get to share ideas with students from all over Los Angeles County. I love hearing the different stories and experiences of others. My writing has definitely improved thanks to the editors at L.A. Youth. Thanks to L.A. Youth I have earned recognition for stories I thought no one would ever relate to, such as my Barbie story. Without the encouragement of the editors I might not have gotten the courage to write a story like that. L.A. Youth has taught me not to fear what others think about me, and that whatever you’re feeling and if you think you’re the only one in the world feeling it, there is someone out there who feels the same. L.A. Youth cannot close! Without L.A. Youth students like me won’t have a place to express their themselves. Please donate!
—Jessica Marin, will graduate in 2012 and attend San Diego State in the fall
I grew up in South Central Los Angeles but went to school in Venice, which allowed me to experience different parts of the city. Being part of L.A.Youth allowed me to bridge my experience across both of these worlds and beyond. For the article I wrote about high school students walking to protest a proposed anti-immigrant bill, I received letters from students all across the city who read my article in L.A. Youth. They told me about how my article made them think about the immigration debate in the U.S. and how this law would impact their families and themselves. It’s amazing that as a teenager I was having a conversation with other youth who shared similar views as me! I instantly felt validated and heard. This is why L.A. Youth is crucial to the students of Los Angeles. It allows them to voice their multi-layered perspectives on life, politics and art and share their personal experiences. In the fall I will be attending UC Berkeley to pursue my masters degree in City and Regional Planning and work in urban areas to improve living and working conditions for immigrant and working class communities. There is no doubt in my mind that one of the key factors in my success has been my participation in L.A. Youth.
—Mar Velez, graduated in 2007 and is now studying abroad in London and will begin her masters this fall at UC Berkeley
From learning how to stop using fluffy SAT vocabulary words to tackling tough issues like racial profiling through writing, L.A. Youth has taught me what no tutor or AP English class could have ever taught me. Not only was L.A. Youth a place where I could develop strong writing skills, but it was also a home where my editors became mentors and my peers became friends. Now in my second year in college, I still hear my editors’ advice echoing powerfully in my mind whenever I grapple with my essays, reminding me to simply write clearly and honestly. I am forever thankful for the four years that I was able to learn from and work with L.A. Youth and its amazing editors, and I hope every teen in L.A. County continues to have the opportunity to grow from L.A. Youth as much as I have.
—Charlene Lee, graduated 2011 is now finishing her first year at Wellesley College