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Episode 3, TLC: Full Narration - Transcript

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a certified or verbatim transcript, but rather represents only the context of the class or meeting, subject to the inherent limitations of real-time captioning. The primary focus of real-time captioning is general communication access and as such this document is not suitable, acceptable, nor is it intended for use in any type of legal proceeding.

[Music]

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: Hi, I'm Betsy Foldes Meiman, and I'm the creative producer of Connectopod. And today we are going to be talking with the students that put together the domestic violence awareness project with the LAPL at the Canoga Branch and the Encino-Tarzana Branch. So we're going to find out a little bit more about how this project came to be and how it's influenced them and whatever else they have to add to it. So why don't we start? Today we're speaking with Konnie Duong, Melissa Peruch, and Tanisha Gunby, and Emmanuel Paz, who are the students that have put this project together, some of the students. And we have Samantha Guevera from StrengthUnited, a CSUN agency, and we have our lovely librarians, Marcia Melkonian at the Canoga Branch, and we have Elisabeth Calla at the Encino-Tarzana Branch. And these two ladies are responsible for bringing this project. We also have our partner today here, Andrea Lopez, who is the other half of Connectopod. All right, Andrea, I know you had a couple of questions, so why don't you start right out of the gate?

ANDREA LOPEZ: Yeah. My first question is, what drew you to the committee that you're on? And, why you chose that committee? That would be great.

MELISSA PERUCH: So hello, once again, my name is Melissa Peruch and the committee that I took lead of, with my partner Artina, is the resource guide committee. When we're dealing with domestic violence, I feel like a lot of people want help, but they don't know where to go for help. One of the main messages that the production of the whole graphic novel was for people to gather resources that they would like to refer to. Taking on the resource guide is a big part of the graphic novel, and one of the most important, and it makes me feel like I'm actually helping people compile a bunch of resources and reliable resources that were vet checked that they can go to and get help with. So, I'm not directly helping them hand to hand, but it makes me feel like I am guiding them a place where they can be at peace and okay.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: That's wonderful. Wow. You are so well spoken, Melissa. That's wonderful. So, let's throw it to Konnie. Would you please tell us a little bit about the graphic novel portion of this project, what it is and how it came to be?

KONNIE D: So, hi, my name's Konnie Duong and I am the graphic novel committee lead. Each person on the committee is kind of taking on their own case study of a domestic violence case. And they're making up their own story and they're doing a few pages on whatever topic they want to kind of convey in their pages. We chose this route because people have different artistic styles and it would be hard to have everyone just collaborate on one overarching narrative, just because we're all remote. And it's kind of hard to make our artistic styles all fall into place into one whole piece. So we kind of just split it up. And in this case study way, I also like it because we highlight different types of domestic violence. It hits a wide range of types.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: So this is a graphic novel based on real case studies that have been fictionalized, is that correct?

KONNIE D: Everyone just kind of made up their own narrative based off of one type of domestic violence. For example, I'm doing stalking and I think someone's doing financial abuse and then someone else is doing legal abuse or something like that. So everyone's just creating a narrative around this one type of domestic violence.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: And who's doing the artwork?

KONNIE D: Everyone is doing their own artwork for their own pages and case studies.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: Wow. And then, so for the whole framework, who's overseeing the whole production of the graphic novel?

KONNIE D: The community leads are me and Eliana. And then, I think Garcia and Elisabeth have also done a great job. They stepped in when we needed help, made sure that we focused a lot on the domestic violence that we were trying to portray.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: And is this going to be an actual physical graphic novel, like on paper or is it going to be online? Where will people access this?

KONNIE D: It will be printed and published. There will be some sort of event and we will be giving out free graphic novels and then these copies of the graphic novels will also be dispersed among all the LA libraries so that anybody who goes to one of the LA libraries has access to this resource.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: Wow. That's great. Okay. So my next question then is for the librarians, that sounds like a huge project, right? Is it just the two of you, Elisabeth Calla and Marcia Melkonian, working on this together or do you guys have a whole library team working on this and putting it together?

MARCIA MELKONIAN: This is Marcia Melkonian and I'm at the Canoga Park Branch. It's part of an initiative called the Teens Leading Change initiative that has actually been sponsored by the Los Angeles public library system from the Young Adult Services office. And what they do is, they ask us to spark something that the teens turn into a project. We also had the great fortune to be associated with StrengthUnited. So, Samantha came in as the representative for StrengthUnited and really did a lot of educational input in the project. Elisabeth?

ELIZABETH CALLA: That was a great synopsis, Marcia. The Domestic Violence Awareness Project began as a basic concept invented by the librarians. Can you, teens, tell me how you think you adopted and adapted this idea, making it your own sophisticated idea? How did you or other teens innovate and lead this project?

TANISHA GUNBY: Hello, my name is Tanisha Gunby. Over the summer we had multiple meetings with teens. And, over time, we realized what we needed to do to effectively portray and educate people about domestic violence. We just learned what to add to the graphic novel. We added a resource guide. We decided to also give support for AB 309, which is a bill related to mental health training for teachers. We also decided to write essays about domestic violence, which was originally going to be part of another Teens Leading Change project, but we decided to include in ours and add it at the end of the graphic novel. So I think it just took the whole summer to decide how we can make use of this project.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: How did you choose? I know that you all chose like an area of domestic violence. How did you guys split that up between you and why did you choose what you chose?

EMMANUEL PAZ: Hello, my name is Emmanuel Paz. Well, I mean, there was five sections, right? And for me, I wanted to join the graphic novel committee because I believed that was the committee I would be at most use of.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: So are you an artist yourself? Is that a part of what drew you to the graphic novel committee?

EMMANUEL PAZ: I wouldn't say my artistic abilities are that great. I just, [inaudible 00:07:11] to draw, but that doesn't necessarily make me a great artist.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: Oh, how humble.

EMMANUEL PAZ: Yeah.

MARCIA MELKONIAN: Well plus, Emmanuel, your interest in computer programming is part of this, too. Isn't it, when it comes to the graphic novel part?

EMMANUEL PAZ: Yeah, it is. Coding, that's what I did for my major in college. So, it does have involvement in this.

ANDREA LOPEZ: Thinking of college majors already, did this project impact or influence what you may want to pursue as a career? Can any of you see applying your skills that you already leaned towards?

MELISSA PERUCH: I've always wanted to be a physical therapist and I feel like this project actually reinforced that. And the reason behind that is because with this project and with the generous educational courses that Samantha gave us, I realized one important factor. And that is that everyone deserves a beautiful relationship. We all deserve a beautiful relationship and to achieve that goal, we must first have a beautiful relationship with ourselves. I do see a lot of disabled people around my community and people who lose their movement of a limb. It's a really big shock to them. I want to help people like that regain their hope to believe themselves, to cherish themselves, to believe that they can do it so that they can value themselves and form other beautiful relationships knowing that they deserve such things.

ANDREA LOPEZ: Really beautiful.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: Yeah. Tanisha, go ahead.

TANISHA GUNBY: I've always been interested in psychology. So, when this opportunity came, they knew that domestic violence has a huge psychological impact on individuals. So, I'm glad I was able to learn more about that from Samantha's training over the summer and maybe in the future, I'll get involved with projects involving helping those who have suffered from domestic violence.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: Speaking of Samantha... Samantha, can you tell us a little bit about the program that you taught? Because it was a separate program, correct?

SAMANTHA GUEVERA: My main responsibility as an employee with StrengthUnited is running our Close to Home program and Close to Home is a grant funded by the California Department of Public Health. It's a community mobilization program. So, the first piece is what I did with the kids, teaching them about domestic violence, healthy relationships, sexual violence, other topics that are relevant. The cycle of Close to Home itself is taking that information and then doing some sort of action for the community, which is why the graphic novel piece and this podcast and everything the kids have been doing fits just so perfectly with our program. It was really amazing. We had just such great conversations. I just love talking to the teenagers. Some adults don't like to have these types of conversations with kids because they feel like this is not something that kids should be engaging in or knowing about, but it's like teenagers are going to be having relationships and the more informed they are and prepared, the better they're well protected.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: Yeah. I love what a lot of the teens have come up with in presenting the different topics and the different kinds of abuse in their intro episode a couple of weeks ago. It was so clear and concise of identifying the type of abuse, identifying signs, and then being able to communicate if you are experiencing those. And I could see very clearly that they had really digested what you taught.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: Let me direct this to the teens, then. How did you feel about speaking about these issues and was it difficult for you to open up or to be curious about it? Or did you come to this like, I want to talk about this and I know exactly what I want to ask?

MELISSA PERUCH: I got motivated knowing that we were talking about domestic violence, because the thing is, society doesn't talk about certain things. They avoid certain topics and they feel like they can just brush it under a rug. But us as adolescents, I feel like it's key for us to know certain things, especially if it involves us as we're growing up and we're developing different relationships. So, I found it really useful and really engaging that we were talking about domestic violence because it helps us be aware. It helps us look signs and it helps us take care of ourselves and watch out for our relationships. And it's really a growing moment because I didn't really know much about it, but it really helps in trying to prevent it. And not just preventing it for yourself, but preventing it for others that you're close with.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: Are you more aware of it around you and in your environment and in your relationships?

MELISSA PERUCH: A situation hasn't come up like that for me, but if I did see one of my friends or even one of my relatives face a relationship like that, and I see signs, I do feel very equipped to let them know. I feel like I'm very self aware. And even if they don't know, I feel very confident that I can help them out.

ANDREA LOPEZ: I had a question for Samantha. If a nonprofit or an organization, a school, wanted to get in contact with you about training, how would they go about doing that?

SAMANTHA GUEVERA: Yeah, you can actually shoot an email to prevention@strengthunited.org. We do all types of presentations. We have presentations on human trafficking, sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, bullying, even for parents. We also offer our Safe Dates course, which is a course for middle school students, which would be sixth to eighth grade. And that's a course similar to this one, but it has a more age appropriate language where we still talk to them about healthy relationships, how to identify emotions and things like that. And we also offer that course as well.

ANDREA LOPEZ: Wow. Okay. I didn't know that.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: I know that's really awesome, right? Let me ask, too, about Teens Leading Change. Can either of our librarians tell us a little bit more about that program?

ELIZABETH CALLA: Teens Leading Change is an initiative that is funded by the Los Angeles Public Library, as well as The Library Foundation, and what they want is for librarians to talk to their teens. Like, is there something in your community that you think is a problem? What are the things that you see that you want to change or help, in some sort of way. And then you kind of brainstorm with the teens and then eventually they come up with a concept or you maybe like in this case where Marcia and I knew of a concept that they might be interested in, we pitch the concept, but then they flesh it out and then it becomes this full fledged project. They get funding, and then we produce something in the end. There can be like a town hall. There can be a book published.

MARCIA MELKONIAN: Some of the other options include doing a mural in the community or teaching elderly to use Kindles. The teens tend to be very creative on what the final project is. And it tends to be something that, miraculously, not just they learn from, but that the receiver learns from as well.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: If there are any teens out there that want to become involved with Teens Leading Change, what do they do? Where do they go? How do they get involved?

ELIZABETH CALLA: So, if you want to be involved with Teens Leading Change, all you have to do is contact your local Los Angeles Public Library. There are 72 branches throughout the city, as well as Central Library downtown, Teen'Scape. And you can just come right out and pitch your ideas right then and there. I'm sure the librarian will be thrilled that you have concepts that you are interested in exploring, and you've seen things in your community that are problematic, and you think that you can do something. You're going to be earning community service hours for doing that as well. It's very rewarding.

ELIZABETH CALLA: The books are going to be available once they are published at whatever point that happens. We are hoping to get one of the graphic novels in every single one of our branches. So they will be available to be checked out by the public. So, all of this amazing information and art is all there and the entire city of Los Angeles can access it.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: Oh, that's great.

MARCIA MELKONIAN: And, what I like about this project also is each and every one of the teens who's participated will now be a published author.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: Oh, wow. That's fantastic.

MARCIA MELKONIAN: And their work can be found in the Los Angeles Public Library.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: Wow. That's going to look good on some college applications.

ANDREA LOPEZ: I'm also impressed by just how far-reaching this graphic novel is going to be, to have one in every library branch. You'll be able to touch neighborhoods that you've never visited. It's incredible.

MARCIA MELKONIAN: Thanks to StrengthUnited, we will have approximately a thousand copies to be given away for free as well.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: Wow. Well thank you for doing this program. It's a really wonderful program. So, congrats to you.

SAMANTHA GUEVERA: Thank you, yes. These teens are amazing to work with. I'm in awe of them, every time we have conversations.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: I know, right.

BETSY FOLDES MEIMAN: Connectopod is so proud to be a part of the Domestic Violence Awareness Project by the Teens Leading Change at the Los Angeles Public Library. And we really look forward to seeing the graphic novel in October and being able to check it out of any public library in Los Angeles. On behalf of Andrea Lopez and myself, Betsy Foldes Meiman, we'd like to thank librarians, Elisabeth Calla and Marcia Melkonian for inviting Connectopod into this wonderful project and for all of the work that they do all the time with Teens Leading Change. We'd also like to thank Samantha Guevera of StrengthUnited, a CSUN community agency, and coincidentally just voted California's nonprofit of the year. And mostly, a thank you to the teens leading change for their hard work and their empathy. The teens we spoke with today, Melissa Peruch, Konnie D, Tanisha Gunby, and Emmanuel Paz as well as the other teens working on this project: Isabella Saeedy, Jessica Romo, Estaphanie Paz, Artina Turokh, Alison T, Eliana Fishbach, Ellen Kozlov, Evan Burse, Hatice Deniz, and Helen Morales. And thank you for listening.

[END OF RECORDING]

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a certified or verbatim transcript, but rather represents only the context of the class or meeting, subject to the inherent limitations of real-time captioning. The primary focus of real-time captioning is general communication access and as such this document is not suitable, acceptable, nor is it intended for use in any type of legal proceeding.

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