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‘LISTEN 22’ program will honor area youth champions


PLUS ME Project, launched in 2013 with the intention to build self-confidence in Los Angeles youth via the art of personal storytelling, is holding a special community event to celebrate the stories of six scholarship recipients.

“We are living through unprecedented times,” said Richard Reyes, founder and executive director, “and it is more important than ever to help middle and high school students from primarily underserved communities find their voices through storytelling.”

Young people are facing a devastating mental health crisis as a result of these last two years with nearly 70 percent reporting anxiety and depression as “a problem,” according to a recent PEW Research Center report.

The program brings a trained team of relatable role models to conduct in-person presentations and workshops in school districts, charter networks, and college-access nonprofits. The COVID-19 pandemic led PLUS ME to develop virtual programming, creating safe spaces online that invited youth to reflect on their experiences and share stories with each other, providing an opportunity for connection and empathy.

“My favorite thing about the program has been getting to reflect on my previous years and getting to know myself a little more … and see how many things I’ve achieved… I don’t give myself enough praise for that,” PLUS ME student Jessica said.

Moving to a virtual model also allowed PLUS ME to bring services to youth outside of Southern California, reaching students in Northern California, Georgia, Kentucky, and New York.

PLUS ME increased its staff, updated its mission, lowered overhead costs, and drafted a new strategic plan — all in service of sharing its mission with the world. The team offered over 1,000 hours of storytelling workshops, nearly double the number conducted the previous year.

PLUS ME was recently selected as an Unsung Hero in Youth Development by Super Bowl LVI’s Champions Live Here Host Committee and will be hosting the 3rd annual LISTEN scholarship event on the Friday before the Superbowl (Feb. 11) at Marlborough School in Los Angeles.

To get FREE tickets to LISTEN 2022 and to learn more about this year’s scholarship recipients, go to

PLUS ME Project was launched by Reyes in 2013. While earning his B.A. in Critical Theory/Social Justice from Occidental College, he began sharing his journey of becoming the first in his family to attend college with local middle and high school students. PLUS ME developed a program model that has positioned the nonprofit as an industry-leading organization known for helping students craft and articulate their own stories for college and career advancement. Since inception, PLUS ME has positively impacted the lives of over 100,000 students from over 300 underserved middle and high schools throughout Southern California.