Friday, July 31, 2009

Just Say Yes

I knew the only way we’d reach teens was in the schools. The key was finding teachers who would allow our newspaper in their classrooms. Friends and family helped me compile a list of about 25 willing teachers. I hand-delivered L.A. Youth to them.

I thought about asking school district administrators for their blessings, and quickly rejected the idea. They would almost certainly say no. This meant I would have to employ a certain amount of stealth to avoid attracting the attention of security guards or hostile principals.

I changed from my usual jeans and sweatshirt into a business suit, to look like someone on official business. I loaded stacks of newspapers into my red Subaru hatchback, stacked so high I couldn’t see out the back window. At each school, I waited in my car until classes were dismissed for the day. When the bell rang and students streamed out the main gate, I walked in as if I belonged there and delivered by bundle of newspapers.

Distributing a single issue took a few weeks, because I could only do one school a day this way. The teens on the staff helped out by stuffing copies in their backpacks and passing them along to favorite teachers. Make sure you pick someone cool and sympathetic to the rights of young people, I advised them.

Over time, as L.A. Youth won acceptance, we were able to distribute it openly on campuses across the city. Only rarely would a school official object.

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