College journal: Swapping cardinal and gold for orange

Jesus Vargas and Luis Moctezuma recently said goodbye to South Los Angeles and hello to college — far off at Syracuse University in New York. Both had learned digital skills through classes at South L.A.’s TxT (formerly URBAN TxT), a nonprofit that works with inner-city boys to develop tomorrow’s technology leaders, and hope to one day bring change to their communities. To do that, they’re first going across the country. (And now rooting for the Syracuse Orange football team instead of cardinal-and-gold USC Trojans.)  Check back for updates from Vargas and Moctezuma’s journal chronicling the challenges and rewards of attending college far from home.


Oscar Menjivar, in orange, accompanied Jesus and Luis to get settled at Syracuse.

Thoughts before arrival

Jesus: The closer I got to college, the more people wanted to talk about it. Everyone wanted to know if I was ready, excited or nervous. My generic response was, “Yes, I’m excited.” But the truth is that I wasn’t really thinking about school. When I graduated from high school I felt as if I had just taken a deep breath after completing a tedious task; the last thing I wanted to think about was the next step of my educational journey. [Read more…]

South LA Hack-a-Thon

South LA Hack-a-Thon
Kids, teenagers and adults had the chance to explore the world of computer programming and design at the Urban TxT (Urban Teens Xploring Technology) South LA hack-a-thon at the Normandie Christian School on Saturday, April 13.

The event featured sessions on data digging and web development, computer program, STEM career paths, solutions for broadband in South Los Angeles and emerging technologies. It brought together community residents, college students and professionals.

IMG_0249“Almost 70% of homes in South LA lack Internet access,” according to Urban TxT founder Oscar Menjivar.  “Schools donʼt have the infrastructure they need for students to be successful in life, and there is a racial divide that we need to overcome.”

Urban TxT has a campaign on until April 17th for a $100,000 grant from Good Maker to establish a hacker space in South LA South LA hack-a-thon that would provide technology and know-how to people who want to collaborate and address social issues using computer programming and website design.  

Click hereSouth LA Hack-a-Thon to vote for Urban TxT in its Good Maker campaign and to read more about its plans to bridge the digital divide in South LA. Voting continues until April 17th.

To find out more about the work of Urban TxT, visit its Facebook page and its website.

URBAN TxT changing the lives of South LA teens

By Jesus Vargas

Jesus Vargas is a student at LAUSD USC MaST High School in South LA and a graduate of the URBAN TxT program.

imageLet’s be honest, South Los Angeles does not have the same reputation that West Los Angeles has. Just like the Middle East isn’t known for its natural resources but for its war and violence. Violence, drugs, and gangs are just a few things that come to mind when thinking of South Los Angeles. But there is a group in South Los Angeles that is daring to be different and rising against the stereotypes. This group goes by the name of URBAN TxT.

imageURBAN TxT was created by Oscar Menjivar as an attempt to cultivate young leaders and entrepreneurs in the South Los Angeles area. Menjivar has made URBAN TxT successful by only recruiting “the best of the best,” as he says it himself. He gives these teens a simple task, which is to create a website that helps the community and that can potentially become a business. They then learn about the different aspects of creating a website and decide which roles they want to take on. One can be anything from a developer to a designer.

Menjivar brings back previous URBAN TxT alumni to volunteer at URBAN TxT — alumni that now attend some of the most prestigious schools in the nation such as USC and Stanford. So it’s simple: URBAN TxT gives teens knowledge and a few year later they bring it back. This is an ongoing cycle that is slowly developing a community of its own.

imageLately Menjivar has shown this group of young men that hard work truly pays off. He has brought in some truly successful people to visit URBAN TxT. Nancy Vega, creator of PLAY BANK, and Emmanuel Pleitez, Chief Strategy Officer of SPOKEO who is running for Mayor of Los Angeles, compose this list of successful people. Menjivar has worked hard to bring them in and inspire these teens. Both speakers have shared their stories which are very similar to those of the boys in URBAN TxT right now; humbling to say the least. And a few weeks ago the work of the entire URBAN TxT community paid off when they were featured in as a tech camp aiming to cultivate teen entrepreneurs along with other programs in the nation. The only difference is that URBAN TxT was the only program from the western part of the nation. Accomplishments like this are slowly gaining URBAN TxT more recognition in both the worlds of technology and youth programs.

By engaging children in technology, the URBAN TxT staff have managed to change the lives of many local teens. Teenagers here now aspire to make a difference in their communities and live above the influence. That’s not any easy task when you’re surrounded by some of the most infamous streets in the United States. But let’s not forget the jewel of South Los Angeles: USC. Which is where URBAN TxT operates from. To be the best, you need to surround yourself by the best.