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826LA Teens: Making Appearances in the News, Having Remarkable Ideas, Doing Big Things

We’re more than a pair of book-producing factories: we keep track of our young writers, follow their lives, and watch them accomplish big accomplishments. Our kids are an eclectic, passionate group, though. Back in the 826LA office, we’re always surprised by what they find to channel their passions … and where they end up.

Jackson, center, is a reader, writer, and (recently) something of a spokesperson for the cause of alternative transit in LA.

One of our original generation of after-school tutoring students from Echo Park, Jackson is currently at Florence Nightingale Middle School northeast of Echo Park’s hills, and became something of a cause célèbre among local biking activists about a month ago when he confronted the Los Angeles City Council about implementation of cycling access plans. His letter, widely distributed and available here, recently received a controversial response. Within weeks, Jackson’s dialog with the local government has energized, surprised, and even angered some advocates for a better biking LA. David Fonseca has an extensive write-up about the conversation that’s grown out of Jackson’s passion for biking at this website.

Meanwhile, a regular from the first few years of our organization (and more recently, 826LA SPINE) has been pouring her heart into filmmaking (encouraged and helped, we hope, by her time in 826LA playwriting workshops, our reality TV camp three summers ago, and plain old 826 writing culture). Jocelyn, about to enter her last year at the prestigious Lycée Français de Los Angeles, is spending the upcoming week in our nation’s capital to have her movie screened in front of a crowd that includes soulman John Legend and the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center.

Jocelyn Ramírez, left, with former intern Lesley Wasserman and Mark Twain Middle School kids, joins the D.C. A-list this week in Washington.

Working with our friends at Venice Arts, Jocelyn had filmed and cut her own “What’s Going On?”-themed footage about the state of our society. We couldn’t be prouder of her, knowing firsthand how apt she is at articulating her generation’s concerns. Better still, the folks at the Kennedy Center have shown their support by flying Jocelyn, one of just a handful of talented youth filmmakers, to Washington. The week that will end with her footage shown to Kennedy Center audience applause. Read more about the event and campaign here.

A salute is due to our teen students like Jackson and Jocelyn: they’ve become engaged in their communities not just through 826LA, but through politics, art, and education. We’re happy to continue playing a role in youth development that coincides with teens’ interests and talents. (We’ll be working with Venice Arts’ filmmakers on a middle school screenwriting and filming project starting this week, actually and continuing throughout May and June.) And in the face of how difficult it can be to create powerful, transformative art, we think adult writers nationwide could learn from our students. If anyone can get gigantic things done, they can.

 

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