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the narrative


28 eighth graders in 10 episodes
Vaughn Next Century Learning Center

Sometimes the strongest advocacy is simply being yourself.

Lead! Create! Advocate!

The research Interviews

Learning how to podcast while learning about Pacoima. Equipment. Interview Prep. Interview technique. Courage.

California Assembly Member Luz Rivas shared her Pacoima upbringing with a Single Mom (yes caps it's a career), her education journey from Pacoima public schools to MIT and Harvard, her advocacy as a non-profit founder of DIY Girls, and her rise to an elected official of her hometown district. (Sheesh-Inspiration much?!)

After an informative introduction by Cesar Rosales and Angel Ponce, she answered a  barrage of questions prepared by the class and hosted here by first-time podcasters Ralphie Miranda, Jessica Esparza, with help from Jenrry Gonzalez-Vargas, Leilah Ortega, Valerie Garcia. 

Thank you also to the Assembly Member's field rep Arturo Garcia

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Research for Changing the Narrative Pacoima continues! International muralist and Pacoima homey Levi Ponce dropped by to visit our podcasters at Vaughn Next Century Learning Center to share his artistic journey to fame, fortune, and happiness (hint- it has to do with doing what you love and sharing the joy of your talents to uplift your community).


After Levi's presentation of past, present and future murals, first-time podcasters Agueda de Santiago and Aiden Robles Mares lead the group Q & A. Turns out Levi is quite comfortable in the "hot seat" and even turned the tables by grabbing the mic and interviewing Agueda about her art! Always lighthearted and fun, he manages to dive deep. Levi is a dynamic artist in every medium, including this one!

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Our research into Pacoima life continues with a visit from Yesenia Cruz from Pacoima Beautiful. What is Environmental Social Justice? What is a frontline community? How can Yesenia speak so fast?


First-time Podcasters Ashley Lozano and Anthony Hernandez lead the class Q&A after Yesenia's presentation, featuring the very astute questions of Adrian Lomeli, Cesar Rosales, Sergio Gonzales, Analiss Fernandez , Leilah Ortega, Ashley Gonzales, Jenry Gonzales, and Angel Ponce.

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REad more about the process and curriculum on our blog

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Research Interviews
youth driven episodes

commendations of achievement

US Congressman Tony Cardenas

For those whose artistic vision helped shape the

Connectopod Podcast Series

"Changing the Narrative Pacoima"

hover on pix to read their accomplishments

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This chatterbox and show stealer pulled a big surprise when he chose to give the spotlight to his friend, boxing prodigy Alejandro Morales, even though Cesar is a boxer as well. He chose to focus on the story rather than himself -the sign of a true podcasting journalist.

All that stuff that you get in trouble in class for will one day be your biggest asset when you focus it.

Cesar Rosales
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Adrian's voice can be heard on almost every episode, whether in his own episode sharing his dreams and concrete plans to be a professional athlete, or in others asking thoughtful and engaging questions of guests and peers. His curiosity and generous nature always moved the conversation forward.

Adrian Lomeli
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Agueda's spirit of inclusiveness, commitment,

and natural leadership abilities, make her an excellent producer. 

More than any other group, she kept her team on task and happy. The sign of a true professional!


She is a talented artist who graced our project with her illustrations.


In her writing, she truly captured the spirit of 'Changing the Narrative-Pacoima', inviting the listener into her personal space.

De Santiago
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Sergio dared to take on the elephant in the room. violence is prevalent in Pacoima, that's a fact. Sergio changed that narrative by illustrating how questioning the status quo of how that is ignored by the media can bring a community together. He called on Eric and Lorenzo Chapman of the gr818ers to fearlessly delve deep into a sensitive subject

Sergio Gonzales, Jr.
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Oscar is an idea machine. One of his many ideas was exploring the idea of 'Things that are supposed to work and don't/Things that are not supposed to work and do. " an original thinker, he applied this idea to parking lots, what most see as a blight, but he saw as a level playing field and opportunity to excel for the many gifted athletes in Pacoima.

Oscar Pia
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Leilah is practically a professional journalist. She fearlessly leaped into 'Changing the Narrative-Pacoima' with a to-go kit before production even officially began! She realized her vision of 'Pacoima Perspectives' by interviewing people in and outside of Pacoima. She embodied the very idea of of the project by questioning the stereotypes of Pacoima right from the source-the people not the media. She worked independently and then generously invited others join in.

Leilah Ortega 
Leilah Ortega 

Changing the Narrative Pacoima

Vaughn Next Century Learning Center 2019

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Aaron showed us the power of Restorative justice, applying it every day with the kids he guides, disciplines, and protects. He deals with the students with respect and is rewarded with respect in return.


Aaron led the way in our most challenging circumstances.

Aaron Camacho


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Connectopod Learning, Inc. for empowering youth to connect with their community, their peers their own voices with their podcast series "Changing the Narrative Pacoima"

Daniel P. Castillo
Betsy Foldes Meiman
Andrea Longoria Lopez

The Shows

Question the status quo. Reimagine new possibilities. 

Rediscover our past & present connections.

episode 4:

Pacoima Perspectives


What do you know about Pacoima? What makes a place, a community? What is the narrative of Pacoima told in movies and media and what was missing?


Ready and armed with microphones and curiosity, Team JALV-

Leilah Ortega (producer), Valerie Garcia, Jolene Caballero, and

Aidyn Robles went in search of Pacoima beyond the stereotypes.  Asking local residents, as well as outsiders, "What do you know of Pacoima? What have you heard?" they've created a complex picture of the place they call home. Pacoima is for sure a place of challenges, but also friendship, family, love, and unexpected beauty. It's all in your perspective!

Read our Connectoblog for more about how this episode was created and see more pics go

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episode 5:

The Power of Sports


The Irrelevants team Oscar Pia and Adrian Lomeli started out to create just a segment but ended up with their own darn episode. Discussing the barriers of Pacoima's lack of sports clubs and the unstoppable athletes that live there, (including themselves!), Oscar and Adrian reveal the importance of parking lot playgrounds. These two thoughtful guys illustrate how sports makes great leaders. 

Shout out to guest artist musician and producer Joe Foldes who edited and engineered this piece with the team. Credit to tech director, Savanah Briones, who recorded the interview with the Connectopod "To-Go" kit.

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episode 6:

Fight Club

Boxing is very popular in Pacoima. Cesar Rosales, a boxer himself, and fellow Podcaster Natalia Arjon showcase the sport by giving the spotlight to  Vaughn eighth-grader and boxing prodigy Alejandro Morales. What does it take to be a champ? What inspires a kid to work so hard? What does boxing mean to this community? Savannah Briones records the interview on Vaughn Next Century Learning Center's playground. The Angry Kittens have a TKO with this episode.

Read more on the Connectoblog!

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episode 7:

The Vaughn Experience

The BBC (Big Brain Club) invites you on campus to have The Vaughn Experience. Eighth-grade- not always easy! First up, Wilfredo Bacca, always being caught lacking himself,  interviews security guard Aaron Camacho. In a "dope conversation" recorded by tech director Jenrry Gonzales, we learn why Mr. Camacho is respected by even the toughest of kids. The secret is: he respects them. A former "lacker" himself, his empathy comes from understanding.

Then, interviewing her group partners, Jenrry and Wilfredo, producer Agueda de Santiago, highlights the challenges and successes of eighth-grade life. 

We want to acknowledge the three students that did not turn in their media release forms for various reasons. They contributed to Mr. Camacho's interview with astute questions and comments that spurred some of the answers you hear. They worked equipment and helped with the project overall behind the scenes. Good luck with volleyball and soccer!

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 episode 8: A Murder Mystery

You can't change the narrative if you don't address what the existing narrative is. The existing narrative of Pacoima is violence. It is violent. Over a six month period in 2019, there were 165 violent crimes. Compare that to 103 in Northridge or 66 in Sherman Oaks. The perception of violence is so normalized for Pacoima that it barely gets reported.  How does that weigh on young minds and souls? For Sergio Gonzalez, it weighs heavy.  When there was a murder on his block, it wasn't even reported on. To Sergio, that is the Murder Mystery he sought to solve. 

What is missing from the violent narrative of Pacoima is the strength and empathy of a community that rallies. To help him make sense of a difficult truth, Sergio turned to Lorenzo and Eric Chapman, two of the co-founders of The Gr818ers. As Pacoima natives and veterans of it's violent heritage, they acknowledge that violence, but show how it doesn't have to define who you are.

Read more on the Connectoblog!

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 episode 9: Gamers

"Video games are a way of life!" So say Fabian Quintana, Angel Ponce, Miguel Nunez, and Amanda Carillo . They make the case that from Minecraft, to Skyrim, to World of Warcraft and more, this generation explores unlimited "open worlds", makes friends, and learns useful technology skills that can translate to future jobs.  

Online they connect with players worldwide. Interviewing voice over actor Elle Newlands, in their Pacoima, Los Angeles classroom, they find a surprising real-world connection between a childhood in Glasgow, Scotland and their own. What does it take to beat the odds and go for your dreams? How does creativity save us?

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 episode 10: Pacoima Personal

And just like that, we've arrived at the final episode of Changing the Narrative Pacoima. We will miss all 28 of our Vaughn Next Century Learning Center podcasters! We've enjoyed the laughter, the challenges, and the evolution of 'Changing the Narrative-Pacoima' from a bunch of ideas into 10 episodes!

Featured here:

Jessica Esparza and Kiera Moreno cheer for cheer squad. Is it a sport?

Agueda de Santiago answers "How do you see yourself? How do others see you?" Brothers are bothersome, grandmas are great! But it's how you see yourself that matters most.

Anthony Hernandez, Analiss Fernandez, and Kimberly Duenas share a public service announcement for  Pacoima Beautiful, the only environmental social justice organization in the San Fernando Valley.

And lastly, The Ashleys: Ashley-Lozano and Ashly Gonzales, with a little help from Leilah Ortega delight with their friendship. 

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Congressional Commendations
Guest Artists

Guest artists and speakers

click on names for links

Program developed and taught by

Betsy Foldes Meiman

Andrea Longoria Lopez



-3 day Critical Media Literacy

Daniel P. Castillo

-Working with Sound

Joe Foldes

-Water in LA

Joe Harmon

Executive Producer

Betsy Foldes Meiman

editing & sound design 

Joe Foldes

CSUN interns

Priscilla Rueda

Steven Fernandez

Azeneth martinez

Christian Martinez Ayala

Sandy orellana


Executive Admin

Andrea Longoria Lopez


Professor Gabriel Gutierrez

chair of Chicanx studies CSUN for bringing us such great student interns And for giving us space to develop

Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey for financing our equipment

Jessica Lanier Jewel who advised on social media

Director Sandra Contreras, Teacher Joe Harmon,

and the office staff at Vaughn Next Century learning Center

Big and special thanks

to all of our student Podcasters. Out of chaos, we built something really special. we love every one of you and will miss you. 


Changing the Narrative is funded in part by a generous grant from
The California Arts Council,
a State Agency.
Learn more at


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Tiger Baron Foundation

who supports connectopod operations

Thank you for your faith in us


our generous individual Donors helping us  to connect youth to their community their peers and their agency to own their story. 

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CTNP partners

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Credits and Appreciation

Fill in the lines of a map with  memories, good and bad,

 the places  you love 

-and of the people you love...

and it becomes a picture of home.

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