Imperial Valley Youth Voices

Empowering youth through journalism and storytelling

The Imperial Valley Youth Voices Project seeks to empower young people by giving them the journalism skills they need to tell the often overlooked and untold stories of their lives and community.

What concerns them?

What matters to them? What are their hopes, dreams and aspirations for the future?

The ninth largest county in the state, the Imperial Valley is located in the most southeastern corner of California, across the border from Mexico. The problems of poverty, unemployment and poor health rank high. Yet, behind the grim statistics, is a thriving, engaged Latino community that cares deeply about the well-being and education of its children and youth. Not surprisingly, given these two realities, Imperial Valley youth report that they sometimes fear that their future opportunities are limited.

Renaissance Journalism’s project is designed to help the students—many of whom are immigrants or children of immigrants—to engage in community affairs, to sharpen their powers of critical analysis, and to craft new narratives about their lives. Basic journalism skills can help students in their studies and in many careers besides news reporting. Many of the students are bilingual, which also is can be an asset in their future careers.

In 2015, we launched and piloted the initiative at Brawley High School, where award-winning civics instructor Jose Flores is integrating journalism—from lessons on freedom of the press to covering city hall meetings—into his classes with the assistance of Renaissance Journalism and a cadre of volunteer journalists. In June 2016, 10 students from three Imperial Valley high schools attended an intensive, multimedia workshop at San Francisco State University. It exposed the students to new opportunities and multimedia storytelling and journalism skills that are not usually available to them.

In 2017, Renaissance Journalism is partnering with the Imperial Valley 4-H  to pilot a multimedia storytelling project for youth, ages 15-18. Youth will attend six summer workshops, where they’ll learn journalism and multimedia storytelling skills such as writing, video, photography and web design.  The project will culminate in a community-based event showcasing and celebrating their work. Read more about the 4-H project here.

Renaissance Journalism is developing the project in collaboration with the Vesper Society, a private operating foundation that supports a number of initiatives in the Imperial Valley.