On Saturday, the Merced Sun-Star delivered copies of Walking our Paths to communities across the county. This is We’Ced Youth Media’s 7th such publication, featuring the stories of young people, but with a very special twist. The entire publication was produced by the young people themselves.
“This kind of role where I had more of a hands-on type of position, this was a first time for me,” said Victor Seguin. He was one of handful of veteran youth reporters who took charge of producing the publication this year. “Before, I just turned in a story and everyone else would do everything behind the scenes and we’d just see the final product. For this one, I really got to be the person behind the scenes.”
A key responsibility was creating the layout. There is an art and a science to this. The way images and text are organized on page can deeply impact a reader’s experience — and there is a lot to consider. Layla Ornelas, another lead designer, explains: “We needed to be sure that everyone could read the text, and that it would be easy on the eye. Then there was placing the photos — making sure there wasn’t a gap between image and text, and that people wouldn’t get mixed up on where to read next. Then there was the color scheme, the filters, the captions below each photo.” A balance had to be struck between staying true to the vision of each contributor and doing what worked. “The most time-consuming part was working out the templates for both English and Spanish,” said Layla. “Words in different languages take up different amounts space, which changes the layout.”
Layla’s photo is featured on the cover. “Whenever I take pictures, I try to do something different: different places, different angles, a different color scheme. I don’t like to use models — I want someone who has actually experienced what I’m trying to capture, so I can get the most raw emotion. For this shot, I literally asked people to swing their feet so I could get the motion of it.”
Creating a publication that looks compelling is the first step in getting readers to open its pages and read. And getting these stories into the hands of other young people in the community is critical. Many of the stories share the personal experiences of youth in the community, and dive deep on issues like immigration, alcoholism, and homelessness. “There are probably hundreds of kids in Merced who deal with homelessness but none of them really want to talk about it with their friends,” said Victor. “If there’s a person at We’Ced who is dealing with homelessness, they can write about it and show, ‘Hey, you don’t have to be shy or embarrassed about the fact that your homeless. There are other people dealing with it. Here’s how I dealt with it. Maybe my experience can help you.’ That’s how all of us think: that our stories will have an impact on someone’s life.”
But the publication is not just for young people. At the heart of We’Ced’s work is changing the narrative about young people. Reading these stories gives adults a chance to [see] young people in a different light — to understand the challenges they face, as well as the brilliance and resourcefulness of their perspectives and solutions. “We want them to see that we aren’t just a bunch of teenagers and young adults who want to be in gangs, who don’t want to do anything with life,” said Victor. “We have a story of our own and that we want to be involved in our community. We’re not just a bunch of future convicts. We’re writers and we’re future leaders.”
Now that the publication is on the verge of being released, Layla feels relief and excitement. The production process was long and tedious, but she’s happy with how it came out: “A lot of the teachers at my school know I’m a reporter, and they’re really looking forward to seeing it.”
For Victor, this is just the beginning. Inspired by his work at We’Ced, he is majoring in English at Merced Community College in hopes of one day becoming a journalist: “I had never even imagined being a journalist when I was still in high school. It wasn’t until I actually started writing articles and seeing how they impact people that I was finally like, ‘You know what, this is something I am really passionate about, so much so that I want to make a career out of it now.’
**Stay tuned!! A digital version of Walking our Paths will be made available early next week and a release party is being planned for late February. Come out and help us celebrate! More details on the way.