Calafia is yli’s statewide youth policy journal that amplifies the narratives of young people on topics and issue areas important to them and their communities. Each year, Calafia Fellows are selected from across yli’s offices to develop and produce a youth-led policy ‘zine. Along the way, they are mentored by experienced reporters and learn the steps to producing a variety of different kinds of content.
This year’s Calafia Fellows are an exceptional bunch. Here are their stories:
Malachi Sanchez is currently 17 and attends El Capitan High School in Merced, California. He is free-spirited and driven with his own goals and ideas. During his free time, he enjoys journaling, writing, and playing the guitar.
Growing up in a religious family with a world famous prophet father and church leader mother, Malachi used his frequent moments alone at home discovering his own morals, ideals, and perceptions of the world. It was a defining moment of his life when he was 8 years old and sitting in church listening to his uncle, who was also the pastor, talk about same sex marriage, which was becoming normalized within Christian communities, should be looked down upon and disallowed. It was then that he learned to seek his own perspectives, including the idea of tolerance, more liberal ways of thinking, and discovering more about himself along the way.
Nancy Aquilar-Aquino is an 18 year old from Fresno, who was born in Oaxaca, México. Her birthday is May 16. She has been involved in youth advocacy for around 3 years. Her involvement happened accidentally. Lured with the promise of free food and not necessarily knowing what it was about, Nancy joined the Friday Night Live club at her school where she learned about issues happening in her community such as substance prevention work like anti-vaping. In her free time, she enjoys doodling and hanging out with her family and friends.
Paulina is a 17 year old junior who is currently working. She was raised in Coachella Valley, California by her mom who is from Michoacán. The vivid stories of her mother’s childhood and adventures in México growing up planted the seed of her love of storytelling. Growing up writing poetry, performing at open mic nights and being active in the community taught her what it meant to be an activist. Learning to lead proudly, Paulina craves learning how she can bring positivity to her circumstances and better her community.
Before the pandemic, she worked as an editor and journalist for her school newspaper, Hawkview, since her freshman year and did community service work, including composting with Raices and uplifting community stories with ¡Que Madre Media¡, a collective of women of color. She enjoys painting and drawing, playing with her cat, Romeo. She also loves plants, mysteries, magic and educating herself on different movements that inspire her. Her mom, her cat and friends are her universe and motivation to always do the best. Paulina is grateful and excited to see where storytelling and journalism leads her.
Colette (Coco) Holcomb
Colette is a Calafia member of 2021. Her nickname is Coco, which she is fine to go by. An inspiring young adult who was born on October 19, 2004, Coco grew up in the San Francisco area. She and her family moved around the Bay Area many times, went to New York at one point, but in the end came back to Marin, California. She is involved with the Youth Commission where she and 24 other people, who are mainly youth, work together in the mental health subcommittee. They have done summits and invited guest speakers, but their main goal is to spread awareness of mental health issues by providing help.
Coco’s inspiration for storytelling came from having a need to spread information on media and understanding that every single person has a story. Coco loves to elevate people’s stories and meet people with different backgrounds. Coming from a life with two dads and having the experience of living in a great number of places, she had the chance to make friends with many diversities. Her love for connecting to people and storytelling brought her here as a Calafia fellow.
Briana Mendez is 19 years old and lives in Long Beach, California. Her birthday is on December 14th. She likes writing, listening to people’s stories, and has a passion for literature. Briana is going to be a sophomore at Cal State Long Beach. She is double majoring in English Education and Journalism, which are her passions. Briana is a part of VoiceWaves, in which she covered issues around education, such as the importance of equitable access.
Katelyn Chang is an almost 16 year old who attends Mills high school in the Bay Area of California. One of the most impactful moments in her life took place in middle school. She was a choir mentor, taking on a leadership position for the first time in her life. Seeing as she’s the younger sibling, she had never heard herself be addressed as a role model. But hearing that she was to the younger student prompted her to continue trying to set an example for others.
María (Chuy) Torres
Maria (Chuy) Torres is a twenty-year-old art student born and raised in Fresno, California. While she initially hated reading and writing growing up, she discovered her passion for writing when she joined kNOw Youth Media in 2018. She has also been involved with Calafia for three years as a fellow, design contributor, and now co-lead! Inspired by her love for her favorite childhood movie, Lilo and Stitch, she currently hopes to become an animator and eventually make cartoons and movies.