July 13, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Local Teens

While many teenagers spend their free time friending on Facebook and otherwise sizing up the social scene, one group of Westside teens is devoting its downtime to enriching the lives of youngsters with special needs. All are members of Inspired Teens, a teen-created and teen-run organization for students�ages 13 through 19�who want to work with and raise funds for kids with autism spectrum disorder and other special needs.

Inspired Teens is an offshoot of the Vista Inspire Program of the Julia Ann Singer Center at Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services, one of the nation’s largest, most comprehensive care facilities for youngsters and adolescents experiencing mental health, behavioral, emotional, or social problems. Founded on the principles of the Miracle Project, the Vista Inspire Program serves children with autism spectrum disorder and other special needs through several therapeutic, after-school programs focusing on dance, drama, voice, music, and musical theatre, as well as on Bar/Bat Mitzvah education and preparation.

During the summer, Vista’s Inspire Program also offers a day camp where Inspire Program professional staff members are assisted by volunteer teen counselors. Following last summer’s day-camp session, several of the teen counselors found working with special-needs youngsters so fulfilling that they wanted to continue doing so during the school year; Inspired Teens was thus born. Reflecting on his summer-counseling experience, Jake Correia, a junior at Brentwood School who currently serves as Inspired Teens’ co-president, says, “Vista’s Inspire Program opened my eyes not only to autism, but it also unveiled the core of human relationships, no matter what obstacles are apparent. I am in awe seeing how these kids deal with autism and grow, but also how they embrace it and use it to take their interaction with the world to a whole new level.”

Members of Inspired Teens can now be found at Vista Del Mar throughout the week, lending a hand in the Inspire Program’s ongoing assortment of classes. For example, Inspired Teens’ members are currently helping special-needs students transform their artwork into greeting cards that will be sold at an upcoming Inspire Program fundraising event. Inspired Teens recently brought in $4,500 from their own fundraiser, a movie screening at American Cinematheque in Santa Monica. Vista’s Inspire Program has lost significant funding as a result of California’s budget crisis, and Inspired Teens is planning a series of fundraising efforts throughout the year to help make up for these shortfalls.

Inspired Teens is also looking to expand its ranks and encourages local teens to join. For Josh Corwin, a sophomore at Santa Monica’s New Roads High School who helped found Inspired Teens and currently serves as the group’s treasurer, working side-by-side with special-needs kids has had a far-reaching impact. As he explains, “It’s the ideal we’re looking for in society�accepting each other for who we are. It enriches our environment.”

Students interested in becoming members of Inspired Teens are asked to contact Vista’s Inspire Program Community Outreach Coordinator Jennifer Brook at (310) 836-1223 ext. 369 or jenniferbrook@vistadelmar.org.

About Vista Del Mar:

Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services was established in 1908 and, over the course of more than a century, has evolved from an orphanage to a union of five specialized agencies working together to provide comprehensive, therapeutic, as well as educational programs and services for children and their families on a picturesque, 18-acre campus in West Los Angeles. These agencies include: Vista Del Mar; Julia Ann Singer Center; Reiss Davis Child Study Center; Home-SAFE (located in Hollywood); and Family Service of Santa Monica (located in Santa Monica). Between the nonprofit’s residential, outpatient, community-based, and education services, Vista Del Mar provides 45 programs to nearly 6,000 children and families annually. Services provided by the agency include, but are not limited to: therapeutic, residential treatment for severely emotionally disturbed youth; private adoption services for both domestic and international adoptions; community-based foster care; a network of mental health and case management services for children at risk of out-of-home placement; a private, special needs school (K-12); mental health services to students in schools throughout Los Angeles; therapeutic services for children with autism; individual and group counseling for children and families; educational assessments and treatment; child abuse prevention services; and early childhood care and provider training. For additional information, visit www.vistadelmar.org.

Contact: Michelle Vazzano, 818-501-8383; vazzanopr@gmail.com

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