Salinas Valley young journalists meet Oakland Statewide conference gives Voices’ budding storytellers a window into possibilities


Three Voices of Monterey Bay Young Media Project participants joined the California Youth Media Network Statewide Conference earlier this month. The conference was held in Oakland from April 30-May 1, and was an opportunity for our budding journalists to brush up their journalistic skills, to see other young people showcase their work, and to tour the gorgeous San Francisco Bay. 

More importantly, it was an opportunity for them to be inspired about the power and possibilities journalism and storytelling hold, something crucial during these changing times. Here’s what they had to say about the experience. Voices of Monterey Bay is grateful to the California Youth Media Network and The California Endowment for making their participation possible. 

— Claudia Meléndez Salinas



As a very introverted person, I can say that this weekend, being surrounded by lots of new people and being in a new place where I only knew one person helped me grow as a person. … We enjoyed hearing from Sabby Robinson, assistant audio producer for the Washington Post’s daily podcast. I was intrigued during her presentation, and not once did I feel bored or unamused.

I listened to one of the podcasts she shared with us because it felt powerful.

The podcast is Have You Heard George’s Podcast, which takes you through a journey of city life through music, storytelling and fiction. We also had the opportunity to take some workshops, which were beyond helpful and fun. 

My friend and I ended up taking a podcast workshop after the presentation, where we met new people and had to work together to create a podcast idea. Upon listening to our ideas, one of the presenters wanted to stay in touch and try to expand our idea further, which was super exciting. 

After a tiring day of sitting down all day, they took us on a ferry to San Francisco, where we got to explore on our own, which was such a beautiful experience and one I will never forget. 

The second day made me think and explore different journalism choices because we took a creative writing and interview workshop. The second workshop helped me get out of my comfort zone because we had to interview a person from a room we did not know, and surprisingly, we talked about lots of things, and it was not awkward. 

Just talking to everyone at the conference was so different. Everybody was so lovely, which made you feel comfortable, which is weird because I am the complete opposite. Visiting somewhere new with a paid room, free food, and free trips and having this experience makes me feel so grateful and lucky. I met new people and got their social media to stay in touch. 

As the child of two immigrants who have struggled and tried their best to give me everything they did not have, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially being able to share this with my best friend.

— Kimberly Piñón



This weekend I felt the rush of a one-of-a-kind, inexplicably beautiful experience. Attending the Youth Media Conference was magical. There’s no other word for it. Waking up to the sounds of pelican calls, the ocean churning, and coming down from my comfy hotel room to meet like-minded people from all over the state was something I could never dream of.

Coming from a small town and from a family who has never understood my passion for writing, it was a much-appreciated breath of fresh air to meet people who had the same ideals that I have. Meeting passionate youth who were actively interacting and reporting on their communities and affecting change was inspiring. I feel further urged to involve myself in journalism more. 

Each workshop filled me with a rush of hope for what I could accomplish if I only applied myself. Journalism is a wonderful art because it is endlessly accessible, as I am beginning to realize. It is by the people and for the people. I have never felt more supported and hopeful than when I was in those workshops, sharing my ideas, and hearing them appreciated and added onto and edited until they became something bigger than myself. 

I especially felt at home at the creative writing workshop, where I had the opportunity to share a poem I had never thought I’d share. I never could have imagined how beautiful it would feel to let my words be heard. 

— Angela Rodríguez



The most impactful takeaway from this experience is that I realized that storytelling is necessary to change our society. Without telling the stories of the people, how does our community know what problems people face on a daily basis?

In addition, the experiences that I have lived in my journey of life should be told to inspire generations to come. I migrated to the United States when I was 5 years old, and soon enough, I will be the first in my family to receive a degree from a higher education institution. I have yet to experience the life that I envisioned for myself, but I know that my story can impact the lives of brown immigrants like myself. 

I am a work in progress, and now more than ever, I am committed to becoming a better version of myself. Gaby Arvizu, one of the guest speakers, was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and raised in East Oakland. Arvizu’s presentation was a beautiful act of vulnerability because she let us in her world and shared her experiences as an immigrant in this country. Her passion for storytelling was felt throughout the room and the ambience shifted tremendously when she spoke about her journey. 

Soon enough, I will be the one standing in the middle of the room speaking to a young audience about my experiences as hispanic immigrant journalist in this country. The journey shall continue…

— Carlos Castro

PHOTO: Angela Rodríguez and Kimberly Piñón in Oakland

Have something to say about this story? Send us a letter.



Claudia Meléndez Salinas

About Claudia Meléndez Salinas

Claudia Meléndez Salinas is an author, journalist, open water swimmer, and cat lover. | Claudia Meléndez Salinas es autora, periodista, nadadora de aguas abiertas, y aficionada a los gatos.