Our Community is Getting Stronger, Este Hollywood

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Back 2 School 2 Squad at the end of the night; Saturday, August 24th, 2019

From the words of Dr. Mary Gallagher, President of Los Angeles City College:

“On Saturday, August 24th from 4 to 8 PM, staff from the non-credit department of LACC participated in a great local community event called Back 2 School 2, marking the second year of this event. I was able to attend and hear all of the things going on at the ‘grass roots’ level of our community. LACC was included because of the GED preparation and testing we do. We also provided information from some of our students currently attending non-credit classes. It was a fabulous event. I look forward to next year.”

Dr. Gallagher’s recognition of BTS 2 is a milestone achievement for the work to uplift more vecindades in East Hollywood and throughout Los Angeles. In the days ahead, the work to keep strengthening our community will remain challenging, but I also believe that as our special event showed this past Saturday–and last year–the promise of the work will remain bright and full of encouragement. There will be more following up on the success of BTS 2, but for now, I’d like to express my deepest thanks to each supporter, close and afar, who took a moment to contribute to this critical day for our neighborhood and families all throughout this great city.

J.T.

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Okay, Let’s Review this Summer 2019

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Mid-City’s very own Willy West sporting the SkyBlue Los Cuentos; Summer 2019

For summer break this year, we created a list of goals for how to beat Summer 2019. We did this because it’s long been known by educators and other professionals that when summer hits cities like Los Angeles, it can be a challenging time for young people and their families in particular; summer’s heat-laden days and nights without any school in between breaks many of our rhythms, and can lead to issues at home if we lack the best guidance over how to fill the sudden free time. So, The L.A. Storyteller got active with a series of blogs for youth that anyone could do at home with a simple WiFi connection and a dab of motivation:

We called our list of tips How to Beat Summer 2019, Parts I, II, and III, and even threw in a FREE Black & White Los Cuentos Hoodie for students who wanted to go the extra mile with our tips, which ranged from reading & writing activities to exercise, and more! We then followed this list with 10 WAYS NOT TO BEAT Summer 2019, ’cause we know how much kids love to be told what not to do. And also how often it works. Right?!

Following this, we introduced students to our very own outline process for our blog’s schedule with How To Outline Your Summer 2019, in order for youth to try their own hands at planning the days and weeks’ activities. For the more adventurous, outdoorsy young people, we published Secret Agent: How to Discover Your Neighborhood in Los Angeles, which details how to use L.A.’s more popular destinations to think about planning the future of our own sides of the town.

This felt like enough tips for a while then, but suddenly from out of nowhere came the barrage of fireworks leading to the 4th of July. To let students know in case they weren’t having the best 4th of ’em all–that it would still be okay–we published 5 Tips for When 4th of July Sucks.

Then, because I knew that some students still hadn’t put down their Fornite to read about everything else they could do, I published three more blogs to close out the writing series. These blogs featured tips that I felt youth especially needed to read about regardless of what they were doing this summer, including tips on how to get along with the family, how to “stay” friends with the squad, and even how to best deal with relationships.

This made for a total of ten blogs all for young readers this Summer 2019, after which the season would never again slow down for yours truly. This was due to another adventure, which was also one of the challenges on our list I suggested that students try out for themselves: the creation of a podcast. In our first ever podcast together, known as J.T. The L.A. Storyteller Podcast, my friend Ed and I published two episodes to start off a series centered on yet another special project for us, which the whole world and their mom now knows is BTS 2.

Things to do would pick up thunderously with this special day, and in a flicker of time, it’s now been over two months since we first set our sights on making Summer 2019 something special; the event is now just a single week away!

I’m hopeful that by sharing about all these different projects and things to do, a handful of students and families out there learned about different creative strategies for the season that they may have missed otherwise. But I also know that no matter how much I might write, the summer for some students can still be filled with so much going on that even if they really meant to read our blogs, it was still one of those things they just couldn’t get to.

Indeed, it’s like this for many Youngs during the school-year as well, but as I like to tell these and other students during the busy and fast-paced school-year: it’s alright, because of course there’s still the next season to tackle, during which we can try everything we missed before and even more.

In fact, that’s what our 2nd Annual Back to School Party is all about: a culmination of all of our creative efforts this summer as much as it is an invitation to young people and their families to celebrate the possibilities with us. Because no matter how far a person might go or how much time they put in to create something new, there’s still always more to do.

So come on Los Angeles! Go and get your raffle tickets for Back 2 School 2! You and your fams may just be the biggest winners of them all.

J.T.

Top 5 NOs to Remember with Relationships this Summer

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It’s time for the Relationship talk.

Okay, so this is a very special post, and for some of my teens out there, it’s going to be the most important post you’ll read on my blog all Summer 2019! You can count on one thing: I will be as authentic as possible with these tips because I’ve been there and I know it’s not easy! So, are you ready? Okay, here we go with the real.

1. NO, you DO NOT need to be in a Relationship this Summer. It may be hard to believe, and I know that for some people, this very “No” will turn them away from the post entirely! I can live with that. But what I can’t live with is failing to let you know that NO, you DO NOT need to live like all the celebrities, or like all the characters on TV, or like those other friends who are with somebody else right now. How can this be, even if you feel like the only thing that would save your summer would be to finally just be with that other person? Because being with that other person IS NOT the magical solution to how tough things get for you this Summer 2019. Think about it this way: if we pretend for a moment that finally being with that other person does make your life better–at first–is that really how you want to live the rest of your life? That is, do you really always want to depend on someone else for your happiness? The answer starts with a capital ‘N’ and ends with a capital ‘O.’

2. NO, you DO NOT need to message the other person every day to make sure you’re still together this Summer. If you are in a relationship with someone else, you may ask yourself: how do I make sure the other person doesn’t start talking to somebody else? Your answer might be: we should message each other every day. This is WRONG. And it’s wrong because your life is incredibly important. It’s wrong because your life is THAT MAJOR. What do I mean? Scientifically speaking, it’s a miracle that you were even born, which makes you truly unique. In fact, you’re so unique that you actually owe it to yourself to explore that uniqueness on your own. Just like the other person owes it to themselves. I AM NOT PLAYING. You have to discover whether you can truly play that guitar like Jimi Hendrix, or if you can truly pick up that paintbrush like Salvador Dali, or if you can in fact design your own clothing brand like JIMBO TIMES. These are possibilities you’ve got to find the answers to all on your own.

3. NO, you DO NOT need to just get away to be alone with each other. Ever heard of Romeo and Juliet? It’s an old story. Like a 424 year old song on repeat, actually. And SPOILER ALERT: when Romeo and Juliet try to escape their realities without being quite prepared for it, it doesn’t go well. In fact, they both take the biggest Ls. Have things changed much in 2019? Nah’. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t like the other person; I’m not even saying that it’s wrong to want to just be alone–and left alone–with them. What I am saying is that if you insist on spending time with each other, you have to be thoughtful, finding safe spaces to be in together and not just by yourselves, where you risk making assumptions about what you’re ‘supposed do’ when everyone else isn’t looking. TRUST.

4. NO, you DO NOT have to buy each other gifts to make each other happy. This one makes a lot of sense when you hear it at first, but it’s easy to forget it as you go along. Do you ever wonder just why that is? As in, why people spend so much money on things we don’t really need? I’ll give you a hint: it’s because we’re surrounded by movies and music telling us how when we really care about someone, we have to buy things to show them. It’s a very ‘American‘ way of doing things, but the alternative is much better: you just chiill. Again, be thoughtful about how you show someone that you care for them. You can write a song, land a somersault or kickflip, or simply run three miles for them. It’s not just that these options don’t cost you as much, but that they’re more creative. And 90% of the time being more creative with your life is just better. TRUST.

5. No, you DO NOT have to “prove” to each other that you’re loyal to each other or call each other out once the relationship ends. At the end of the day, we live in a world filled with choices. And if the other person chooses to be ‘disloyal’ to you, that’s their decision. You CANNOT control every decision the other person makes, or ‘control’ which way the relationship goes. Nor would you want to, because you have your own life to lead. Plus, if you truly care about each other–just as it is with your friends–you have to respect the other person’s differences. Does that mean that if someone you’re with suddenly chooses to break up with you, that you don’t do anything about it? Yes, actually. It means that if someone doesn’t want to be with you, you just leave them alone. Just like you would want them to leave you alone if you suddenly chose to work on yourself instead of working a relationship. Don’t call them out. And don’t respond to being called out. It’s a waste of your time. Didn’t you have a clothing line to design?

BONUS: (Relationship or no relationship) You DO NOT need to act on every emotion this Summer. Let’s be honest: a lot of us have our phones with us nearly 24/7, and this makes it difficult to get away from all the instant ‘goings-on’ over the screen, especially if it feels like “nothing else is goin’ on.” So we end up watching each other–especially people we have feelings for–coming up with ideas or ‘implications‘ about what we see, and then we get caught up in all these feelings. But often times our feelings actually cloud our way of seeing things for what they are. So even if your feelings tell you that you just have to message that other person–or those other people–it’s probably better to talk it over with an adult you can trust first. NOTE: I am not that adult. It needs to be someone who’s been in your life longer, and who you can trust will keep your feelings secret if you tell them how you’re thinking of approaching someone over an instant message or two.

Now, does this list cover all the NOs you should remember when you’re with someone else, or when your feelings seem to overwhelm you this summer? NO. The truth is that even if you read this list, I don’t expect it to ‘save’ you every time you get into an issue with someone you’re with, or when you get into issues with your own feelings. It takes time to learn. And we have to make mistakes before we learn. Lifetimes of mistakes. But if there’s just one part of this list to remember, it’s this:

Respect the other person to get respect yourself. If you put respect out there for them, you will see it come back to you. It’s like a circle; you get back what you put in. Doesn’t this take time to master? OH YES. But you have every reason to give it a shot. It’s a beautiful journey, friends.

Now, it’s been one month of summer already. Have you tried your shot at the free Los Cuentos Hoodie yet? You’ve got lifetimes to work on relationships, but only a few more weeks before the Hoodie Challenge is over. Get on it!

J.T.

BONUS: Back to School 2018 RECAP

It’s my pleasure to share this special recap vid with my community, both in and beyond Los Angeles. Please check it out as time permits, and tell a friend! We’re going to as much support as we can get for BTS 2 in East Hollywood, taking place again at El Gran Burrito this upcoming Saturday, August 24th, 2019!

J.T.