"Who are you and where have you been all my life?"
Hello and Welcome to the tale of why Anaheim Youtopia came to be! Long ago, towards the end of 2020, three friends were spending a lot of time together contemplating life, meaning, their futures, what’s next, and how far they’ve come as individuals. They realized a few things:
These commonalities brought them together on an almost daily basis in District 2 of Anaheim to brainstorm ways that they could benefit their city and specifically the kids like they were. A frequently used motto between them was, “be who you needed when you were younger.” After a few possibilities fizzled out they realized that their unique skill sets and imaginations would be best suited in a youth service nonprofit organization setting. So, they gathered a small group of volunteers and began the process of founding Anaheim Youtopia.
Fun fact: the word “topia” is believed to originate from ancient Greece. It can be translated as “place” or “a place with specified characteristics.” So, quite literally, Anaheim Youtopia means this is your place!
Our mission at Anaheim Youtopia is to empower, support, and cultivate a sense of community within the disadvantaged youth of Anaheim, and the surrounding areas, via creative learning experiences, resources, and mentor groups. We actively practice a proven method of interaction where we actually see and hear the teens for who they are, what matters to them, and who they would like to become!
Today in Anaheim, there will be a teenager initiated into a crew, we will refer to them as George. George has never experienced belonging to a positive community nor does he know what love feels like and what love can accomplish. He feels unwelcome in his home and doesn't have successful role models to mentor him. George draws to escape the abuse he regularly experiences while at home. His culture is dripping with painted walls, inked skin, and sparkling cars but at his age there is nowhere legal and accessible for him to express this style that he loves. Tonight is the night that George will paint on his first wall because the “fraternity” he joined told him it’s part of being in the “family.” Tonight, he will be arrested for vandalism with damages exceeding four hundred dollars. George will get his first felony, spend time in jail, and begin a cycle that will ultimately plague the rest of his existence.
We want to change the trajectory of George’s life, whether or not this scenario has already entirely played through. Our monthly meetup, Potluck & Paint, is the first draft of what Anaheim Youtopia looks to provide teens like George. At the meetup we will have spray paint, plywood sheets, acrylics, water colors, paper, canvases, and more for the participants so they have a safe and legal space to practice and express themselves. We know fully well that becoming a muralist, tattoo artist, pinstriper, or auto body painter are all fulfilling paths to take. We make it a priority to mentor youth like George in productive and positive ways to help them build their networks and better ensure a bright and colorful future for them.
At Anaheim Youtopia, we believe community is what you make it. We also believe that community doesn’t begin and end with our organization. We want our teens to know that they are a part of this city, that they can use their voices, and they can learn where to find the invitations to participate. We want to help them influence our Anaheim to be a more inclusive and considerate place for all of its residents to thrive. Because there are so many different people with different stories and interesting contributions to be offered here in this city.
Here’s another scenario: Moxie has been feeling off lately and can’t figure out why. She’s been emancipated from her mother for a couple of years, since she was 15, and doesn’t quite know how to get or pay for medical insurance nor how to set up doctor appointments yet so she goes to a local Planned Parenthood for free help. The doctors keep telling her that they’re running tests but not to worry because she’s so young. After a couple of months, Moxie still doesn’t know what the tests are for or what the results are showing, until today. Today she was diagnosed with metastatic cervical cancer that spread to her lymph nodes, ovaries, and uterus. Her doctors are all anxious to get her into surgery and then chemo-radiation to follow. Every adult that she’s interacted with since this journey began has told her that she’s too young for all of this and doesn’t deserve it which is making Moxie even more frustrated at the situation, because it’s happening no matter how young she is and it will continue to happen to other kids younger than her too. She feels the weight of the world on her shoulders and, even long after finishing surgery and treatment, Moxie will be left with a void in every sense of the word and in every aspect of her life. After a few years of steadily declining health, she learns the term “chronically ill” and what being disabled truly means. Moxie has never felt so completely isolated before.
We created our weekly online Alliance mentoring groups to help teens like Moxie. For example, our Chronic Illness Alliance group is here to offer Moxie resources, understanding, socialization, comradery, and hope. It’s led by adults living with disabling chronic illnesses and is intended to help explore the possibilities of living a life under such circumstances. Currently we have Alliances for young women, young men, LGBTQIA+, and chronically ill teens. Each Alliance is an ecosystem that can collectively accomplish whatever they’d like with the help of their Group Leaders, Group Assistants, and Anaheim Youtopia.
Moving forward, we invite you to join us in any way that you can. This organization is our way to build real community, to bridge real gaps, to support each other, to socialize, to learn, to grow, and to empower. You can check out our opportunities page for more specific positions where we need help or our volunteer page to fill out an application! We’re also open to partnerships, sponsorships, and welcome donations of all kinds. So come with us as we move forward with love, Anaheim Youtopia isn't much without you.
"Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in the looking outward together in the same direction."
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry