L.A. Youth prints its final issue

David Olvera-Sanchez

(February 28, 2013) — “Even though I’ve only known about it for three years, I am shocked that it’s over,” said junior Pierre Simonyan upon finding out that L.A. Youth, a monthly newspaper focused on teen journalism in the L.A. County area, recently published its last issue in February.

With more than two decades of stories and more than 400,000 readers each month, this publication seems to have etched a valuable niche into Clark student life, as well as in the L.A. County area. As a second place winner for an L.A. Youth essay contest last year, Simonyan said he was saddened to hear of L.A. Youth’s closure. “[L.A. Youth] shows how teens are and what they go through,” Simonyan said. “And even if your work doesn’t win, just writing about current issues opens you up more.”

Simonyan entered the monthly L.A. Youth writing competition in early 2012 to complete a “Real World” writing assignment for Mr. and Mrs. Davis’s sophomore humanities class. Simonyan wrote about how lying can be seen as both good and bad depending on the situation.

He said that he had no idea that his work was going to win $50 and get published. Although he began participating in the 10th grade, Simonyan was first introduced to L.A. Youth by his 8th grade English teacher Jolie Augustine at Wilson Middle School. According to Simonyan, Augustine would often use L.A. Youth in the classroom for writing assignments and discussions.

Similar to Simonyan, sophomore Vardui Grigoryan was introduced to L.A. Youth through Augustine’s English class. Grigoryan and some of her classmates even went on a weekend journalism workshop at L.A. Youth for extra credit in Augustine’s class. According to Grigoryan, the workshop was mainly student-run and gave the students an overview of how L.A. Youth worked. “The workshop was perfect for anyone interested in journalism,” Grigoryan said, “and I was interested because I was in yearbook at the time.”

Grigoryan submitted many essays to the program and said that she liked that L.A. Youth gave teens from different ethnic and social communities a chance to share their stories. “There’s something in every issue that everyone can relate to,” Grigoryan said.

Humanities teacher Jennifer Davis said that the L.A. Youth publication provided her students a way for their writing to go beyond the classroom. Davis, who has used L.A. Youth in her classrooms for over five years, began to use it when her 8th grade son at Wilson was introduced to the newspaper by Augustine. Disappointed by its closure, Davis said, “L.A. Youth was another outlet for student creativity that simply was not valued enough.”

According to its website, L.A. Youth began as a response to a 1988 Supreme Court decision that allowed school administrators to have a greater influence in the content of school newspapers. In order to preserve the authentic teen perspective and fulfill a true freedom of the press, L.A. Youth was established. “L.A. Youth writers were encouraged to express their feelings; we wanted their voices to shine through,” said Executive Director Donna Myrow in her closing letter in the last issue. Myrow went on to explain that tough economic times and foundation cuts, from which the program received much of its funding, were the primary reasons that L.A. Youth could not continue.

Within L.A. Youth’s 25 years, it has produced many forums, stories and writing projects that have brought into the limelight relevant teen issues such as poverty, sexuality and college admissions. As Myrow said, “L.A. Youth is a necessary idea because youth-produced media moves the discourse among teens from apolitical to activist.” Although L.A. Youth is closing, its staff has indicated that it will continue to maintain its website, layouth.com, as well as its online archives from 1999-2013. The L.A. Youth staff hope that by doing so, students and teachers are able to take advantage of this free resource that offers a look into the teen perspective.