The wave of youth at Upswell LA

The wave of youth at Upswell LA

// By Jacqueline Brennan

/ By Tamieka Briscoe /

With activities like giant board games in the Public Square and the opportunity to actually “color on the wall” —Upswell 2018 gave many attendees a chance to feel like a kid again. Even more exciting, young people literally were front and center at Upswell, as nearly 1,400 veteran nonprofit leaders and other purpose-driven professionals welcomed and shared the spotlight and stage with the next generation of changemakers.

At a critical time when young people are using their voices and talents to influence change all over the country, there was a wave of youth infused throughout the Upswell Los Angeles experience.

Youth from the Washington, DC-based nonprofit All Our Kids (AOK) accompanied the Upswell team to Los Angeles, lending their talents and bringing a surge of creative energy to support Upswell’s visual arts projects. AOK provides their growing community of young people with resources to negotiate everyday life, including food, clothing, health insurance, laundry facilities, phones, chargers, phone plans, computers, internet service, bikes, art supplies, and a safe place to do and get help with homework, along with college application assistance, vocational programs, jobs and internships, and a big dose of love and support.

Young people from the Los Angeles area were showcased at Upswell as well. On opening night, youth from the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center orchestra graced Upswell attendees with a performance on the Spotlight Stage. The Pullum Center provides free arts instruction to more than 600 students, ages 5 to 20, at their South Los Angeles headquarters and at partner schools.

Students from the YMCA Youth Institute of Long Beach gave demonstrations at a pop-up production station on film editing, Photoshop, and 3-D printing, and took dazzling photos of Upswell attendees in front of a backdrop. They also participated on a panel discussion on the Main Stage, led by Kevin Washington, president and CEO of the YMCA of the USA. The Youth Institute is a program that began in 2001 that engages urban high school youth of color through teaching them the latest in digital storytelling, digital graphics, digital music production, product design, 3D printing, and more.

Young people also were a significant factor at the close of Upswell, when approximately 200 students took part in a rousing performance by Grammy-winning band, Ozomatli. The kindergarten to 8th grade students from the Turnaround Arts: California program at the Ellen Ochoa Learning Center chimed in with instruments and danced along, thrilling the audience. Turnaround Arts: California works with 27 partner schools throughout the state that have been identified by the California Department of Education as among the lowest-performing in the state. The nonprofit provides partner schools with an array of arts education services and resources designed to increase opportunities for success, build an extended community, and raise the visibility of achievements.

Tamieka Briscoe is an associate at Independent Sector.

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