As I have gone about my work within the Mayor’s Office, I think back to my own upbringing, the challenges my family and I faced, and the opportunities we had that enabled us to find our success. I look back to one of my first homes, a two-bedroom apartment we shared with two other families, and the conditions of the MacArthur Park region where we lived. I think about going to high school in the San Fernando Valley, and the desire I had to make change in my community.

While assembling Civic Youth – a six session leadership program aimed at supporting youth ages 16-21 in building their skills as civic leaders – I held to these memories with the goal of providing the type of experience for our participants that I wish I could have had when I was their age. Also, in my perspective every moment in life counts and cannot be wasted. So when it came to the activities, trainings, and projects that participants joined in, we aimed for these activities to leave a lasting, empowering impact.

The relentless dedication, creativity, passion, and hustle of our partners and the LA Innovation Team (i-Team) made this potential a substantial reality. Every session was intentional with the goal of providing our youth with excellent, relevant and thoughtful programming that would help build their leadership, communication, networking, and organizational skills.

Every step of the way, we kept the youth at the center of our conversation. We were methodical with programming and aimed to make the process a fun learning experience for everyone. The six-session Saturday leadership program took place at City Hall, with the exception of a beautification project that the youth organized and led in seven neighborhoods on September 10th. Each session included a special guest speaker and interactive training focused on a different topic, including: how to engage with Neighborhood Councils, User-Centered Design Thinking and Prototyping, Public Speaking and Presentation, Community Organizing and Outreach. Youth from across the City were invited to apply for a seat in the program.

Leading up the start of the program I understood the importance of the work and the need for this program, but I was surprised by how many applications we received. As a pilot program, we only had 40 seats available for youth who demonstrated their passion and commitment to their neighborhoods and the City. They all individually had strong LA stories to share, and projected the “can do” attitude about community work.
Prior to Civic Youth, I had put together other programs, but never before composed curriculum on a regular basis that would help shape the minds of the youth and their families and communities. While led by the Innovation team, this program was a team effort in every way and included a partnership with the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment and the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement. What we accomplished was due to the vulnerability, passion and dedication of our City’s leaders, the program facilitators, speakers and youth. While the saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child, which is very true, it takes a city to create a strong group of civic-minded leaders ready to improve conditions for everyone. Now it is to ensure that this work continues, and the Civic Youth family grows and accomplishes the amazing things that we all know are possible in our great City of Los Angeles.

The Innovation Team extends our special thanks to all of the City and Community leaders who made the program possible Ana Guerrero, Gracy Liu, Heather Repenning, Leo Martinez, Henry Casas, Kevin James, Nancy Olson, Saul Kotzubei, Andrew Rodriguez, Robert Sakai, Mariana Amatullo, Sherry Hoffman, Jennifer May, Paul Racs and the Office of Community Beautification team, Jasmine Elbarbary, Kevin Taylor, Michael Long and Paola Fernandez. Thank you all for your contribution to the success of the Civic Youth Leadership Academy, and I look forward to watching this program continue to grow each year!