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WriteGirl Helps Disadvantaged Teens in Los Angeles Find Their Voices

Last Saturday I attended the 14th annual book launch party for WriteGirl, an organization that works with disadvantaged teen girls by pairing each girl with a writing mentor who helps her uncover her words, identity and future goals. The organization boasts a 100% success rate at getting these girls into college, which became one of its missions after a student told a mentor that her school counselor said she “wasn’t college material.”

From their website success stories, alumna Alejandra says, “My three siblings dropped out of high school in the 9th grade – the fact that I’m an uprising junior at a prestigious liberal arts college is truly a dream come true, not just for me but for my whole family.”

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As I sat back and watched the girls recite pieces from their anthology in the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, I was stunned by their depth of understanding, raw emotion and wisdom that went well beyond their years. Sixteen-year-old Olivia Hosken’s poem included these poignant lines about Hollywood:

“The ageless aging agelessly, gracefully gracelessly, run away

wrinkles carved with barbed reviews

and smoothed by the sandpaper of the public eye.

False gentility, tranquility of delusion that the worst is behind.”

These girls grow up with a raw awareness of both the mesmerizing and downright depressing aspects of Hollywood. Many of the girls have experienced poverty, depression, juvenile detention, pregnancy, and other debilitating issues. No matter the girls’ socio-economic background, WriteGirl, as one mentee mentioned, is a place where the girls are free to empower each other in sharing their stories and making their voices heard.

Shannon Luders-Manuel

Shannon Luders-Manuel

Shannon Luders-Manuel is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles.

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