Calafia is YLIs statewide youth policy journal that amplifies the narratives of young people on topics and issue areas important to them and their communities. Each year, one Calafia Fellow is selected from each YLI office to identify the issue’s theme and write the stories. Along the way, they are mentored by experienced reporters, travel to statewide and national media conferences, and learn the steps to producing a printed publication.
This year’s Calafia Fellows are an exceptional bunch. Here are their stories:
Loughlin Brown: A Renaissance Woman if there Ever Was One
by Fatima Ramirez
Loughlin Browne is only a sophomore in high school but she manages the world in a way that makes older generations hopeful about the future. She single handedly runs @YesForEveryone, an Instagram account in which she speaks passionately about the importance of social issues and online activism. A self proclaimed feminist, she’s also well versed in the lack of female representation in the media but is optimistic about that changing soon. Amongst other things, she plays several musical instruments including the piano, flute, and guitar. Her experience with writing is expansive despite her young age as she also contributes to her school paper. Most importantly, she is challenging what it means to be a young woman by being her most authentic self.
Yesenia Pacheco: Passionate, Friendly, Cat Mom
by Maria Torres
Yesenia Pacheco is an 18-year-old who lives in Long Beach, and her birthday is February 1. Passionate about reading and writing, she’s now a senior student at Long Beach Poly High School where she has been involved in her school newspaper since freshman year. She also is interested in writing a book. She describes herself as friendly and feminine; she can be loud at times and is a cat mom to her 3 cats. Her average day consists of going to school, leaving at 1 to go home to watch YouTube or listen to podcasts, usually about people talking about movies. The most important people in her life is her dad and her grandma. Her dad is her best friend and she calls her grandma every day.
Cendy Sarabia: Making Parents Proud
by Nayeli Veloz
Cendy Sarabia is an 18-year-old girl that graduated from high school and is currently working. It took time to convince her parents to let her work because her parents wanted her to focus on her studies first. Her parents are from Mexico, her mom from Michoacán and dad from Guanajuato, but Cendy has lived in Half Moon Bay all her life. She knows that she wants to keep on studying, but she is taking a break before starting college and hopefully being able to study graphic design in the future. She likes trying new things out. Although life has given her some twists and turns she has always tried her best whether it’s inside school or out. Her motivation is to make her parents proud. She has one older sister, one younger sister, and one younger brother. Cendy wants to be a great example for her younger siblings. Her family means everything to her. She loves them very much and would do everything she can for them.
Rachel Livinal: Topping the Growth Scale
by Mary Schindler
It was 2002. Rachel was supposed to have arrived in February, but she was born prematurely – on January 4th. Her mom had a special blood type that began attacking her in the womb, thinking that she was a threat. Her mom ended up having to have a C-section and, for the first six weeks of her life, Rachel was put in an incubator. Despite these initial challenges, Rachel is tall for her age, at the top of the growth scale.
The experience that most deeply shaped her was when her mom decided to leave her dad. Her parents had split custody, and Rachel’s dad was emotionally abusive. He would build her up – for tests, for basketball games – only to tear her down and humiliate her, often in front of other people. She became depressed and began to develop performance anxiety.
The breakthrough came when she finally decided to stop visiting her dad. This decision changed her life completely. Basketball wasn’t bringing her joy, so she stopped playing. She picked up journalism and poetry, which have helped her sit with and start to heal her sadness. Although it was hard to cut her dad out of her life – she doesn’t speak to him anymore – she feels like a much stronger person, someone who is comfortable in her own skin: “I don’t allow people to manipulate me anymore,” she said. “I know who I am now.”
Maria Torres: Animation is Her Future
by Yesenia Pacheco
Maria is sometimes loud, but keeps to herself. Art is her world, but animation is her future. Animation has been with her since the beginning; television is where her love for cartoons began.
Her family is super big, but it’s enough for her and her 2 sisters, brother, and parents. Graduating high school this year, she plans on attending college in the fall. Joining the adult world will not stop her Lilo and Stitch obsession. The only thing she loves more than being outdoors is being with her sister, who is her hero. She is not easily scared, she loves the horror genre. If she could be anywhere in the world right now, she would be at the beach with her boyfriend.
Fatima Ramirez: In Search of Representation
by Loughlin Brown
Fatima was born in Mexico 23 years ago. As she has lived in the U.S. for the past 16 years, she considers it her home, but she realized that she didn’t truly know the country at all as she watched the election results roll in during the 2016 election. The campaign she had worked with expected a win that night, but instead they were shocked.
“I’m like an alien trying to pass off as a human being,” she says, explaining that her passions are very simple, like music and movies. She works at Starbucks, went to school for journalism, writes for Coachella Unincorporated and contributes to the Instagram account @quemadremedia, a “collective of women of color in the Eastern Coachella Valley creating & cultivating stories from our community.” In the future, she hopes to work with young girls, as she remembers the struggles of growing up with media pressure, body image, and micro-aggressions. “At a certain age, just playing outside is considered weird [for a girl],” she says. “Its weird growing up when you don’t see yourself represented.”
Nayeli Veloz: Doing Her Best to Succeed
by Cendy Sarabia
Nayeli Veloz is a girl who was born in Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco, México. At age 5, she moved to San Francisco, California. She’s currently 16 years old and a junior at her high school. Nayeli considers herself a girl who sometimes may slack off on things but always gets the job done. She does not have a clear view of what exactly she wants to do in the future – her scale goes from firefighter all the way to being a lawyer – but she does know she wants to continue studying.
Nayeli has the struggle of not being able to work yet for personal reasons and because her parents want her to focus on her education and make that her only priority for now. Nayeli takes every opportunity that comes to her because she knows not everyone is as lucky to get those opportunities, one of them being to go to college. She looks forward to being able to study far away from her home. She’s looked into some colleges and she has interest in UC Merced and UC Santa Cruz. Whatever she ends up doing, she knows she’s going to do her best in succeeding.