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…]

Teen tech leaders compete in Demo Day 2014

URBAN TxT Demo Day 2014

URBAN TxT Demo Day 2014 | Willa Seidenberg

“South L.A. is a tech desert, but URBAN TxT is changing that,” proclaimed Oscar Menjivar, founder of Urban TxT (Teens Exploring Technology) at the organization’s Demo Day 2014, held Saturday at the University of Southern California’s Salvatori Hall.

URBAN TxT, which announced it is rebranding itself as TxT, is a non-profit that works with inner-city boys to develop tomorrow’s technology leaders and to bring change to their communities. [Read more…]

South LA teens code their way to success by learning technology basics

Oscar Menjivar

Oscar Menjivar is the founder of URBAN TxT

Three years ago,  Oscar Menjivar, 35, a former technology consultant, was working for the  Los Angeles Unified School district (LAUSD) to integrate technology into classrooms when he noticed an upsetting trend.

After visiting an 8th grade classroom, he saw that a teacher had posted grades for a recent paper. Out of 16 papers, only two received a C and they belonged to male students.

“I went to the detention rooms and 90-95 percent of the kids there were young men,” Menjivar said.

Disturbed by this discovery, Menjivar researched dropout and incarceration rates. He found statistics to validate his observations — male students were falling behind.

According to the Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives, boys receive 70 percent of D and F grades. Sixty percent of high school dropouts are males.

In response, Menjivar founded URBAN TxT, a nonprofit organization to help male teens from South Los Angeles develop leadership and technology skills.

He employs a team of five to staff a 15-week summer academy where the boys learn computer programming and web development. Students are divided into teams where they compete against each other to create a website by the end of the summer. [Read more…]

URBAN TxT teens visit Google

URBAN TxT at Google

URBAN TxT students and staff with Eric Schmidt, Google Chairman.

Three members of URBAN Teens eXploring Technology received a private tour of the Google LA office, participated in a discussion with Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, and then met Google’s chairman at the organization’s Venice office. 

“I am a coder and I’m seventeen years old,” said Alejandro to Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google. “What advice can you give me?” asked the South LA teen at the culmination of Google LA’s speaker series session and May 10th’s fire side chat.

“Keep doing what you’re doing and you will be wealthy beyond your dreams,” answered Schmidt. “We need a million of you.”

The teen is part of URBAN Teens eXploring Technology (URBAN TxT), a nonprofit organization in South Los Angeles. The organization creates tech entrepreneurs by teaching teens in South Los Angeles computer programming, web development, design, and most importantly leadership skills. [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.

Looking for something to do this weekend?

Happenings in and around South LA


Urban TxT South LA Hack-a-thon


Saturday, April 13 from 11 am to 4 pm.

For adults and kids of all ages.  Explore the world of computer programming, web development, and design.  There will be discussions on STEM fields, ways for minority students to get to college and beyond, tactics to grow or start a tech business, and general computer skills.   See more.


Walking the Tightrope at 24th STreet Theatre

Saturday, April 13, 2 pm and 7:30 pm


Don’t miss the West Coast premiere of this magical work by British playwright Mike Kenny’s that will appeal to children and adults. Performances every Saturday — extended through May 18th.  Click here for tickets.




Conversations at CAAM: Black films from around the globe

Saturday, April 13 at Noon

A conversation with Ayuko Babu, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the LA-based Pan African Film Festival at the California African American Museum.

LA Heritage Day

Sunday, April 14, 2013 from 11am to 4pm

At the Pico House at El Pueblo Historical Monument in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles
Los Angeles and history is explored through tours, museum exhibits, speakers, children’s activities,giveaways, food, and other activities. All activities are free and will take place at the birthplace of Los Angeles and adjacent to Olvera Street.  Click here for more information.

LA Dance Festival

Saturday, April 13 and Sunday, April 14, two evening performances each night

LADF logo


A weekend of dance classes and performances at the Brewery Arts Complex in Downtown LA.   See a list of performances, including one by South LA’s Lula Washington Dance Theatre.  Click here for more information.

Pleitez hosts a hack-a-thon as latest effort to win voters

By Melissah Yang

Computers and coding was the theme of Sunday’s campaign event for mayoral candidate Emanuel Pleitez.

In an effort to bring technology to underserved communities like South L.A., the hack-a-thon – dubbed “Silicon-Alley” – brought together tech experts and local students to build a website that maps out the area’s resources and programs. image

Several laptop stations were set up in the backyard of a couple of apartments where Pleitez’s campaign team lives and works. Post-it notes on each laptop, all personal devices belonging to Pleitez’s campaign team members, signaled which topics would be covered in relation to South L.A.

Half a dozen students, who had little to no experience with web producing, typed quick blurbs, ranging from the history of South L.A. to local parks and after-school programs, and coded webpages with the help of a mentor.

Alejandro Bernal, a junior at 32nd Street/USC MaST High School, heard about the event through URBAN TxT, an organization teaching teens from South L.A. and Watts how to become leaders in technology. He said the website will be important for people who want to learn a little more about the history of South L.A.

“There’s enough about South L.A. on the Internet, but we want to incorporate more information including programs that will help people in this community,” Bernal said.

The hack-a-thon was one of many unconventional campaign events that Pleitez has hosted in preparing for the final days before the mayoral election. Pleitez, a former tech executive for social network aggregator Spokeo, said the event fit his campaign’s overall theme of community outreach.

“It’s youth-driven, it’s technology and it’s innovative,” Pleitez said. “And at the end of the day, it’s helping everyday people especially in the most underserved communities like South L.A.”

Juan Vasquez, Pleitez’s director of digital outreach, said the hack-a-thon and many of Pleitez’s campaign events defied the idea that “extravagant” events, backed with money and support from key sponsors, win elections.

“This type of event challenges the way traditional politics run in Los Angeles,” 24-year-old Vasquez said. “That’s something our campaign has been doing for months now, and we’re proud of it.”

Yet, the community events seem to have little effect on Pleitez’s standing in the mayoral race. The latest poll by SurveyUSA puts him in fifth place with 6 percent of the vote, well behind front-runner Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel by around 20 percentage points.

For students like Bernal, who wants to study computer engineering or software programming, the website is a project of pride that he hopes will help with his college applications.

“Now that I know more about technology…I’m actually excited because I didn’t know how to code before, but now I do,” Bernal said.

The website is set to go live later this week.

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.

Urban TXT teaching teens leadership skills through technology

By Jose Rodriguez image

Urban Teens Exploring Technology (TxT) is an organization that encourages inner city teens to become catalysts of change in urban communities through the use of technology, concentrating on South L.A and Watts high school students. Urban TxT youth develop skills they wouldn’t normally learn in a traditional school like research, public speaking, leadership and project management. The organization considers community, leadership, academics, and technology as pillars that serve as the foundation to succeed in life.

I joined Urban TxT because I wanted a challenge that dealt with technology. I learned how to create a website and realized how much planning it takes. The website was intended to give incoming high school freshmen an idea of what high school is about. It acts as a guideline for freshmen to follow and become competitive applicants for college. I didn’t think I would ever be a project manager for the website. Before the creation of the website, my teammates and I learned how to use web 2.0 tools as resources. Web 2.0 tools are free utility software available to the public. An example of a web 2.0 tool is “Splash up,” a Photoshop-like software that allows users to edit and manipulate images. Learning how to use web 2.0 tools helped us plan the website when the team was not able to meet in one place. That’s when we used “Mind 42,” a web 2.0 tool that allowed us to map out ideas in a form of a bubble map. We would have never learned how to use these tools in high school.

image Urban TxT challenged us emotionally through team building. We had to do most of the work from home, making it harder to manage the team and assign new deadlines. Oscar, our mentor, also challenged us with team building challenges. For example, we would have to complete challenges before entering the lab where we would meet. One such challenge was closing our eyes and creating a star with a rope. In order to complete the task, it was important to have good communication among the team members. The purpose for the challenges was to learn how to face problems, even with disabilities. This showed us the importance of working together as a team. Our biggest accomplishment was how we all overcame obstacles. With the help of Oscar’s guidance, we were able to find solutions to complex problems by doing research and thinking outside the box.

Being in Urban TxT gave me the opportunity to work with Oscar at L.A. Trade Tech, managing the social media of the organization. He taught me the basic principles of how social media works and its effectiveness. My classmates and I also got the opportunity to visit Cal Poly Pomona which was an amazing experience. Graduate students who helped develop Urban TxT gave us a tour and focused on areas that interested us such as computer science, computer engineering, and civil engineering. We even had the chance to enter labs where students perform experiments and also had a conversation with a professor about hydrology, the study of water, which led to a small lesson of where we can find the best possible source of water. Our plan for the summer is to raise money for a trip to Google. Thanks to Roxanne, who has been able to contact Google staff, arrangements are being made to set a date in which we can all attend.

This article will appear in The Toiler Times, the student newspaper of Manual Arts High School.
Jose Rodriguez is an 11th grader at MAHS.