Filling a gap
We'Ced fills a gap, Reyes said, because the voices of young people too often are forgotten when important community issues are discussed. Because of We'Ced, the youth are heard -- and they also garner some basic reporting and news writing skills along the way.
"It's definitely an empowering thing. A lot of these young people will talk about feeling ignored, feeling disconnected or feeling silenced in some way," Reyes said. "Being able to give them this platform ... it really does affect them in a positive way."
All of the students involved in We'Ced said the experience has been enlightening and has brought them closer together as a group.
"I always wanted to help out the community, but I never knew how or where to start," said Veronica Sandoval, 18. "This program really gives you a voice and an opinion, and lets everyone know how you feel, and that you really do matter."
Sandoval also said Reyes is "awesome" as We'Ced's coordinator. "He understands what we're going through and supports us," she said.
Lisa Vasquez, 16, wrote a story in the upcoming issue of We'Ced about teenage depression. Vasquez said Reyes makes everyone feel comfortable.
"He doesn't make you feel awkward. It's kind of like he's one of us. He is one of us," she said.
Melissa Kelly-Ortega, communications specialist with Building Healthy Communities, a nonprofit that works to upgrade neighborhoods in the Merced area, and a partner of We'Ced, said Reyes is helping to provide an "amazing" opportunity for young people to share their stories. She called Reyes a natural role model and a great leader.
"He sets up good rules from the very beginning. The students know what's expected of them, and they work hard," she said. "I think they've created a really good support group there too."
In the meantime, Reyes said he's enthusiastic about We'Ced's future, and he hopes the experience will be as enriching for high school students as it's been for him. "I hope this can be an experience that can help them change their lives for the better," Reyes said. "I hope this seriously gets a young person to consider higher education, or to seriously consider doing something of value with (his or her) life."
We'Ced is published by San Francisco-based Pacific News Service/New America Medica, and is made possible by grants from the California Endowment. For more information, go to www.wecedyouth.org.
City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITOR'S NOTE: 'Merced Matters' appears every Monday. In it we will tell the stories of Mercedians -- ordinary people doing extraordinary things, extraordinary people doing ordinary things and a lot in between. We hope you like our effort to let you know more about others in our community, and we welcome your suggestions. Please contact Victor Patton at email@example.com or (209) 385-2431 with your ideas for 'Merced Matters.'