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‘We must take action’: La Jollan Ilan Jinich is named among county’s ’25 Most Remarkable Teens’

La Jolla resident Ilan Jinich, 17
La Jolla resident Ilan Jinich, 17, says, “I just feel that I’m getting recognition for all the issues that I’ve brought awareness to.”
(Courtesy of Ana Jinich)

Having spent his teenage years spotlighting issues he feels deserve wider attention, La Jolla resident Ilan Jinich is now standing in the spotlight himself.

Ilan, 17, was honored as one of San Diego County’s “25 Most Remarkable Teens” in the category of social conscience during a ceremony Nov. 10.

The “25 Most Remarkable Teens” program is led by the office of county Public Defender Randy Mize. The winners were chosen by the Public Defender Youth Council, a group of high school students.

Denisse Lopez, 18, and Zane Trubick, 19, students at UC San Diego in La Jolla, also were among the winners — Lopez for civic engagement and Trubick for overcoming adversity in a family situation.

Being chosen one of the county’s most remarkable teens is a “a huge honor,” Ilan said. “I just feel that I’m getting recognition for all the issues that I’ve brought awareness to. It’s a great feeling to have.”

Ilan, a junior at the San Diego Jewish Academy in Carmel Valley, said he was nominated by someone he worked with at San Diego’s Bayside Community Center for “a combination of everything I’ve done.”

Ilan’s actions in the realm of social conscience include activism, volunteerism and leadership. In April, he won first place in the California Climate Video Challenge for his film about pollution at the California-Mexico border and its effects on locals’ health.

That wasn’t his only film, he noted; he’s also produced a documentary on “the whole experience of being an immigrant.”

“As a teen, it’s my duty to ... be a leader of this next generation because we are the future.”

Ilan Jinich

To Ilan, social conscience means raising awareness of issues that “need to be [given] attention.”

Filmmaking, he said, is “an opportunity to tell a story. I think it’s one of the best ways to convey a message.”

In addition to the films, Ilan has been involved in programs for sustainable and urban planning, which he said is “one of my main interests.”

He’s also a national board member of the Jewish Youth Climate Movement, a group of teens working to bring climate awareness to schools, he said.

To that end, Ilan leads the San Diego Jewish Academy’s environmental task force, which he said “brings sustainability efforts into the school and into the school curriculum.”

He also completed an internship at the Institute of Peace and Justice focused on climate issues, along with a weeks-long leadership academy that he said “taught leadership to kids on how to make the community a better place.”

Ilan Jinich is recognized Nov. 10 as one of San Diego County’s “25 Most Remarkable Teens.”
Ilan Jinich is recognized Nov. 10 as one of San Diego County’s “25 Most Remarkable Teens.”
(Courtesy of Ana Jinich)

“As a teen, it’s my duty to [take on these activities] and be a leader of this next generation because we are the future,” Ilan said. “We must take action while it’s still early so that we can plan ahead.”

Ilan said he took the first steps on his path to social activism after participating in the National History Day competition as an early teen and representing California as its state champion in Washington, D.C.

The competition brought “light to historical events that most people didn’t know about,” he said. “I transitioned to modern-day, current stuff. … I just want to bring awareness to issues that most people don’t know about.”

“A lot of people my age aren’t really motivated to do anything; either they don’t care or they don’t have the time for it,” Ilan said. “But I think that just bringing awareness by itself, and getting the message out, mobilizes those people to maybe care a little bit, and that’s all the difference it makes.”

In pursuing causes, Ilan said he prefers “high commitment and attention to detail” over protesting. The focus of action, he said, should start in one’s community and be “small-picture,” not big-picture.

Ilan, who has two older brothers in college, counts fencing — he competes nationally — as his main hobby. He said he has his eye on a career in sustainable planning and has already taken a design and urban planning course at UC Berkeley and another at Virginia Tech in architecture.

“Throughout this experience, I’ve learned the importance of the built environment in communities and how it shapes them,” Ilan said. “I want to be able to put my efforts into that.”

— San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Alex Riggins contributed to this report.