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Pitch Your Passion: La Jolla library gives teens a chance to put their advocacy into words and action

La Jolla High student Arianna Roberts speaks during the Nov. 20 Pitch Your Passion event at the La Jolla/Riford Library.
La Jolla High School student Arianna Roberts speaks during the Nov. 20 Pitch Your Passion event at the La Jolla/Riford Library.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

La Jolla teenagers are about to get more vocal about the causes they care about, if last weekend’s Pitch Your Passion workshop at the La Jolla/Riford Library is any indication. And their topics are many and varied, including ocean advocacy, expression and connectivity through music, how to generate intellectual curiosity and more.

The library launched Pitch Your Passion in October, enabling any teenagers to bring awareness to causes while honing their public speaking skills and earning community service hours.

In a typical session, participants give five-minute talks about their topics, followed by a question-and-answer session. The teens in attendance vote on the cause they want to pursue with a community service project and then brainstorm on what the project might be.

San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, attended the Nov. 20 session.

“Based on knowing how driven, intellectual and caring teens in La Jolla are, I had the idea for teens to take turns presenting on a cause they care about in front of other teens and proposed this to the Teen Council at their monthly meeting in September,” said youth services librarian Katia Graham.

“From a librarian perspective, the intent is to inspire teens and the whole community. COVID cast a shadow over the last couple of years, but youth should know there is still so much light out there, so much good they can do. Pitch Your Passion shows how teens radiate light and have infinite potential to effect positive change. There is a bright world waiting.”

LaCava commended the participants for their diverse ideas and interest in moving them forward. “You saw a challenge during the pandemic and rose above it to try and find a solution,” he told the teens.

Youth services librarian Katia Graham and City Councilman Joe LaCava join the participating teens at Pitch Your Passion.
Youth services librarian Katia Graham and City Councilman Joe LaCava join the participating teens at the Nov. 20 Pitch Your Passion workshop at the La Jolla/Riford Library.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

On Nov. 20, the 12 voting teens ended up choosing two winning causes from seven presentations: wetland preservation, from Nicole Nunes, and transgender awareness, from Arianna Roberts. Both attend La Jolla High School.

“At Mission Bay, there is a wetland that has been cornered into the northeastern side of the bay ... it used to spread across the whole thing,” said Nicole, 16. “That’s really negatively affected our ability to take in carbon from the atmosphere. Since we emit so much carbon as an industrial society, it would be beneficial to get some of that marshland back so we can get rid of some of the artificial projects we started. If we can convert some of that area to marshland, we could potentially reverse some of our effects on the environment and bolster our natural biodiversity.”

She said she was surprised her presentation was so well-received and was grateful for the opportunity to craft a service project around it.

“I’ll say things and people tell me it’s a good idea, but then it doesn’t go anywhere. This is exciting to have an opportunity to do something with this idea,” she said.

Arianna agreed, saying, “I think there is an amazing opportunity that the library has provided us that lets us turn our ideas into something we can actually do and be really beneficial.”

She noted that the Pitch Your Passion event was held on Transgender Day of Remembrance. “There is a lot of hate in the world and a lot of it comes from a lack of education,” said Arianna, 16. “I think it’s the library’s responsibility and the citizen’s responsibility to make sure the younger generation, whose minds haven’t been clouded by hate, grows up to learn you shouldn’t hate people that aren’t like you.”

She said the transgender cause is important to her because “I have seen a lot of discrimination and hate, just casually in the world. It comes from powerful people in the world and classmates at school, who make comments and don’t realize how impactful they are. They just come from a lack of understanding of how much their statements can hurt.”

After the presentations, the teens brainstormed how to carry the causes into community service projects. Among the ideas were videos, petition drives and writing to elected officials.

Teens attending Pitch Your Passion brainstorm ways to turn causes into community service projects.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The next Pitch Your Passion is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17, at the library, 7555 Draper Ave. U.S. Rep. Scott Peters (D-La Jolla) is scheduled to attend.

Graham said she plans to invite San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria to the January program.

Learn more at lajollalibrary.org. ◆