Monday, 09 November 2015 17:20
Sheily Molina at the LAYC Teen Center's recording studio in November 2015.
Sheily Molina, center-right, and Brenda Serrano to her right at the Greater Washington Immigration Film Festival, October 25, 2015.
Sheily Molina participates in LAYC's drop-in Teen Center program after school. On October 24, 2015, Sheily attended the Greater Washington Immigration Film Festival's premier of Dream: An American Story at the University of the District of Columbia's Theater of the Arts. Sheily and another LAYC participant, Brenda Serrano, were on the event's panel where they shared their experiences being immigrant students in public schools. Sheila wrote a poem with her thoughts about her experience, and she has graciously agreed to share it with LAYC friends and supporters.
Rain does not fall on one roof alone
by Sheily Molina, Youth Participant
It's like thunderstorms striking all around the city
Surprising and scaring everyone, it's like never stopping rain with
Hearts beating as fast as your thoughts speeding to your brain
With you trying to hide yourself
Having a lump in your throat
Keeping it all in,
Thoughts killing your soul,
Feeling to hang yourself from reality
And escape to existence
The beauty industry relies on us feeling unhappy
One solitary day I was breaking into pieces
My friend came up to me and said:
"You're beautiful, feel confident about who you are, you got a lot to offer"
Then I said I might not be the only one going through this
You might feel broken down but just know there's always
Someone who will always support you,
And they will always change the way you see things
You'll be your own third eye opener
Third eye opened wide, I can see right into your soul
In the back of my mind I fantasize,
About all the time we've spent, yes, now I know
Because of you,
I dream with my eyes wide open,
Come drowned in my ocean.
Whatever you hold in your mind will tend to occur in your life.
If you continue to believe as you have always believed,
You will continue to act as you have always acted,
If you continue to act as you have always acted,
You will continue to get what you have always gotten,
If you want different results in your life or your work,
All you have to do is change your mind.
Looking for peace in a world
Craving for peace in a world
Of anger and war, peace is just a thought now in many peoples head
And thinking about this
Leads us to believe there is some kind of
Influenced by our own
State of mind
Last Updated on Monday, 09 November 2015 17:26
Monday, 09 November 2015 12:54
By OnRae Watkins, Teen Center Youth Developer
The Teen Center's music production class has been reinvigorated starting with an exciting youth led hip-hop cypher. Thanks to our partnership with the local 7-Eleven, the LAYC's street corner gallery was the hottest spot in Columbia Heights.
With the help of DC's Youth Grand Slam Poetry champion, Asha Gardener, the youth wrote a four-bar hip-hop verse before joining our cypher. After an hour of prep time, the class headed out to perform.
Community members crowded around as a bass-knocking beat blasted from speakers. Each performer timidly stepped to the mic and focused on their iPhones, a.k.a. lyric pads. "My name is Lil Mi Mi, and I'm from South East!" one of the youth proudly recited as drivers paused to catch a glimpse of the performances.
The crowd was so inspired that some locals began to step to the mic to recite their own pieces. The unified claps and roars definitely made it feel like a Columbia Heights family affair.
Check out our LAYC Teen Center Youth Cypher every third Friday of the month!
Last Updated on Monday, 09 November 2015 14:23
Monday, 09 November 2015 12:15
From left: The Club Youth Developer Claudia Diaz, Tre'Yana, Graciela, Keon, and The Club Intern Lina Bocanegra.
By Claudia Diaz, The Club Youth Developer
Tre'Yana, Graciela, Keon in front of the Wilson building, October 21, 2015.
The bus ride to the John A. Wilson Building was a quiet one. Keon, 14, Tre'Yana, 16, and Graciela, 15, rushed after school to the Latin American Youth Center. Together we walked to the bus stop to make our way downtown. A few days before, they came in on their day off from school to work on their testimonies, and after practicing and editing they were ready to share their stories.
Keon, Tre'Yana, and Graciela attend the after-school program, The Club, where they were selected by their peers to present their issues to Councilman David Grosso. The Club was once a funded program that paid youth for attending workshops twice a week for eight weeks, providing hearty meals, and a Case Manger and Facilitator. We continue providing youth with programs like The Club because there is a need for safe spaces that encourage youth engagement, open dialogue, leadership opportunities, skills and community building.
Councilman Grosso along with the Education Committee sent an invitation to testify at the Public Roundtable on Issues Facing District of Columbia Youth on October 21, 2015. We walked towards the building and made our way up to the Hearing Room. We did not expect to find a room filled with young faces. We barely found seats close to one another. At first, Keon, Tre'Yana, and Graciela were feeling a bit overwhelmed and nervous, but hearing other youth testify on issues like cafeteria lunches, grading systems, foster care transitions, skating parks, and bullying eased their nerves. We waited for almost three hours to testify. Councilman Grosso patiently and attentively listened to each youth, thanked them for testifying and offered feedback or asked questions about their concerns.
Tre'Yana was first from our group to testify. She opened up about being an expecting mom who travels an hour and a half everyday from her Ward 8 home to her Ward 1 school. She would prefer going to her neighborhood school but it doesn't offer the same opportunities. Also, she would like to feel safer walking in her community and suggested better street lights and community awareness campaigns. She also disclosed that a car accident left her mother unable to work for months. Tre'Yana would like to find work after school to help her mother financially, but no one is hiring teenagers. About her applying for The Club, she expressed, "While I interviewed because I was interested in The Club, I also interviewed because I needed a job. When we were told the funding was cut, we were all disappointed. As a student, teen parent, and African American young woman, I feel the need and urge to support myself and family, and I need a job to do that." She concluded with stating that The Club is a safe place where young people from diverse backgrounds can come together and have honest conversations without worrying about being judged for their opinions or the color of their skin.
Keon was next. He shared his encounter with police officers who stopped him for being, "young and black." He was walking to the corner store with permission from his parents. He was stopped and questioned. After the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, Keon couldn't help but to fear he would be the next one to be killed by police. He stated, "I am a young black male, who aspires to be an orthopedic doctor, neurosurgeon, or a pediatrician. I am a role model to my younger brothers and sisters. I have a future and a life to live, but it might end by a person that should protect me not harm me." He requested that police officers be retrained to enforce the law and be allies to the communities they serve. Keon also believes that as a community, "we should have a safe space to come together and express our issues and problems, a place like The Club."
Graciela was the last of The Club to testify. She expressed her concern about gangs and crews in her school and how they taunt and bully her and her peers. She feels unsafe at her school and it affects her education and security. Youth involved in gangs or crews need more resources at school like after-school programming because, "Young people join gangs because they don't want to get physically hurt by others, they want to feel empowered, to feel protected and have protection for their families." She also goes on to say, "I believe they need education and feel loved by others. I see my Latino and African American brothers wasting their time smoking weed and drinking." The Club has helped Graciela open up more and make new friends and she believes The Club can help others prevent joining a gang or crew and help them make better decisions and focus on their education.
Councilman Grosso was very impressed and acknowledged each youth and agreed that programs like The Club should be funded. As we were leaving the hearing room, I turned around to see the three had smiles on their faces, and they were proud of themselves. Walking to the Metro Station I congratulated and thanked them for being brave in sharing their stories. The night was dark and cold, but their bright smiles and excitement kept us warm.
The Club is a gang and violence prevention after-school program at LAYC that provides youth and the community with effective alternatives to school disciplinary and juvenile justice responses that promote true accountability, personal growth, and constructive reintegration into the community. While funding for this program has been cut, Mayor Muriel Bowser has allocated funds to the DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation for programs such as The Club, and LAYC hopes funding will be restored very soon.
Last Updated on Monday, 09 November 2015 16:26
Tuesday, 13 October 2015 07:46
Flag parade at LAYC's Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, October 1, 2015.
Filberto Sanchez, a student the Next Step Public Charter School took first prize for his poster illustrating his journey to American and his hopes and dreams for the future, at the Risers screening event, October 7, 2015.
Hispanic Heritage Month at LAYC is the time when we celebrate the accomplishments of Hispanics in America and honor our history as a safe haven for young Latin American immigrants in our community. This year, our staff took it one big stride forward by organizing events that empowered our youth to celebrate their Hispanic heritage while being informed, engaged, and supported in their immigration needs.
We kicked off the festivities with our annual celebration on October 1, including our traditional flag parade, live music by Bell Multicultural High School's Nfinity Band, poetry by Wilson High School students, a play about our indigenous roots by students from our Riverdale summer program, and of course, a beautiful cornucopia of delicious foods prepared by LAYC staff representing Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Bolivia, El Salvador Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Staff decorated their stations by country with artifacts, flags, textiles, video, and art. See more pictures from the event on Facebook.
Risers screening at LAYC, October 7, 2015.
On October 7, LAYC's DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) committee presented a screening of the immigration documentary Risers, a film my DC filmmaker Andy Fernandez starring local immigrant youth. The 30-minute film introduced Brenda, Gerson, and Aura, three undocumented youth who are advocates for immigration reform. The title of the film, "Risers" alludes to the term "dreamers" for the millions of undocumented youth who came to the U.S. as children. "We are no longer dreamers, because we are wide awake. We have risen from the ground. In this country our home we will make." The event featured a panel discussion with the stars of the film and Kevin, an LAYC participant who came to the U.S. recently as an unaccompanied minor. Manuel Sibrian, a graduate of LAYC's Bard College Course and recipient of LAYC's DREAMER Scholarship, emceed the panel, which focused on the immigrant experience and the importance of DACA, voting, and continuing the fight for citizenship. The event also featured a poster exhibit by LAYC participants on the theme, "Our Journey...Our Destiny." The posters helped illustrate the struggles and dreams of the immigrant youth in our community. See other photos from the event on Facebook.
Nathalie Canadas, webmaster, at Best Buy in Columbia Heights for our voter registration drive in partnership with Voto Latino, October 8, 2015.
The following day, LAYC staff held a voter registration drive in partnership with Voto Latino, "Build our legacy. Register to vote." Staff tabled in front of the LAYC building on Columbia Road and at Best Buy in the DC USA shopping center. Within three hours, our staff had registered 50 people in our community, meeting our goal! All eligible individuals are encouraged to register to vote at www.hhmaction.com
Lastly, we hosted our second free DACA Clinic on October 10 where we paired members of the community with a pro bono attorney to discuss eligibility for DACA and began the application process. We also shared information about our college access programs, DREAMER scholarship, and other related immigration matters. The clinic could not have been possible without the help of Rosalyn Overstreet Gonzalez, Attorney with the Public Defender Service of DC, Aoife Delargy, Attorney with Delargy Immigration LLP, and volunteers from the Georgetown Latin American Law Students Association who came out to review DACA applications. They were eager to support our youth and learn more about DACA and other immigration resources for our families. We are also incredibly thankful to Pedro Biaggi of El Zol who broadcast the event to the community. The DACA committee plans to hold another clinic in the spring 2016. Check back for dates and other resources on the LAYC DACA Resource page.
On the heels of a successful Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, we're looking forward to celebrating Black History Month in February in our continual effort to support youth in shaping their sense of self and identify, grounded in their cultural heritage, to build a bright future for themselves and their families.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 October 2015 15:47