"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, three friends were spending a lot of time together contemplating life, their futures, 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.” 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 stronger sense of community within the disadvantaged youth of Anaheim, and the surrounding areas, via creative learning experiences, resources, mentoring. We actively practice seeing and hearing the kids 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 street crew, we will refer to them as Moxie. Moxie has never experienced belonging to a community nor does she know what love feels like and what love can accomplish. She feels unwelcome in her home and doesn't have positive role models to mentor her. Moxie draws to escape the abuse she regularly experiences while at home and in school. She is joining a street crew in hopes that she will finally belong somewhere and find her community.
Her culture is dripping with painted walls, inked skin, and sparkling cars but at her age there is nowhere legal and accessible for her to express these types of art that she loves and cherishes. Tonight is the night that Moxie will paint on her first wall because the crew she joined told her it’s part of being in the “family.” Tonight, she will be arrested for vandalism with damages exceeding $400. Moxie will get her first felony, spend time in jail, and begin a cycle that could ultimately plague the rest of her existence.
We want to change the trajectory of Moxie's life, whether or not this scenario has already entirely played through. Our monthly Potluck & Paint Pop-Up is the first draft of what Anaheim Youtopia is working to provide for teens like Moxie. At each meetup, we provide spray paint, 6'x9' canvas, acrylic paints, brushes, paper, canvases, music, water, and food for 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 invite professional artists every month to share and create with our youth and we make it a priority to mentor at-risk teens like Moxie in productive and positive ways. These are just some of the ways that we 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 the world around them 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.
Moving forward, we invite you to join us in any way that you can. Anaheim Youtopia 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 to see where we need help then fill out an application! We’re also always looking for partners, sponsors, and welcome donations of all kinds. So, come with us as we move forward with love, Anaheim Youtopia isn't much without you.
- Nikki Klein, Executive Director and Treasurer of Anaheim Youtopia
"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