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As they do on many Saturday afternoons, the teenagers from across Los Angeles county descended on the nondescript Fairfax district office building. It was time for the weekly editorial meeting at L.A. Youth the newspaper by teens for teens. The latest issue had just hit the hallways of L.A. schools, and the deadline for the next one was fast approaching.
That’s the formula for producing the newspaper centered around first-person accounts of young people on their community, culture and the challenges they face, allowing for more depth than the typical high school newspaper. Over the years, they’ve tackled such subjects as life as an undocumented immigrant, drug abuse, teen pregnancy and how budget cuts have hurt their schools.
In the most recent issue, Locke High School student Maceo Bradley wrote an account of his mission to take on the city’s (now-altered) policy for ticketing tardy students. There were also stories about life in the juvenile justice system, an Indian girl coming to appreciate her culture by learning Bollywood-style dancing, and one young man’s dispatch on learning to drive with a mom scared to ride with him.
“It’s just a really important outlet for a lot of teenagers,” said Oscar Rodriguez, now a 28-year-old graphic designer, who did illustrations for L.A. Youth as a Lynwood High School student. “Usually you’re in your own little world, but when you get letters from random people” — other teens who read the paper — “it opens your eyes. You realize there’s a world out there, and people are feeling the same way I did.”
L.A. Youth, he said, “definitely played a part in what I went on to do in life.”
But as the newspaper approaches a quarter-century, it is struggling to hang on. The foundations whose grants have long been the primary source of funding have pulled out, and board members who once brought in corporate donations have been laid off, said Donna Myrow, L.A. Youth’s executive director.
The paper, which operates on a $500,000 budget, has two full-time editors, Riddle and Mike Fricano, who guide the young scribes through the writing process. L.A. Youth is printed six times a year, with a circulation of about 70,000 and an estimated readership of 400,000, Myrow said. (The Times donates the printing of the newspaper.)
Myrow said the newspaper needs to raise $500,000 by mid-may or it will run out of money. Unlike other newspapers, which have seen scores of readers migrate to the Internet, Myrow said that’s not an option. Even with this high-tech generation, she said not as many students would read it online, mostly because of a lack of computer access.
I made my decision to publish a newspaper for teenagers in Los Angeles on the morning of January 13, 1988, the day when the United States Supreme Court struck down student press rights in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeir. That decision gave school officials broad powers to censor student newspapers. That afternoon a dozen teenagers sat around my kitchen table talking about issues that affected their lives. Together we wondered how we would publish our own newspaper with no money. We didn’t even have a computer.
But we found some resources in the community—grants from The James Irvine Foundation and Bank of America Foundation, a few old typewriters from the Los Angeles Times, and a meeting place in a senior citizen center. These were enough to launch the first issue. Starting small with 2,500 copies published twice a year for two years, then growing year by year, we now publish six times each year, with 105,000 copies each issue. L.A. Youth has a readership of more than 300,000 in Los Angeles County. Our newspaper is read by students in public and private schools, by those who attend nearly 400 community-based youth programs, and can be found at most libraries. Every issue is posted on our Web site (www.l.a.youth.com), and a Teacher’s Guide is mailed to 1,200 teachers who use L.A. Youth in their classrooms.
Their parents don’t talk about these issues with them. It’s certainly not in textbooks. These are real issues that L.A. teens are talking about.
Originally posted by ownbestenemy
Regardless of one's view on the state of education -- or what may be passed as such -- I see some hope, just as my friend JP has seen in what was a previously unknown to me. This paper required no degree, no mandate, no law or political outcry to start up and begin a wonderful journey. A journey it seems, that has benefited many "teens" as they begin to feel their place in this world.
My hope is that more see this and not just take away from JPZs views on education, but take away a little bit of hope that such a paper gets much needed attention and not just monetarily.