Life Connected

How Teens in South LA Are Breaking Stereotypes and Changing the World

If you think you have to look north to the Silicon Valley for your next invention ... think again.

In South Los Angeles, students in the Teens Exploring Technology (TxT) program are innovating technology with the mission to change the world and break stereotypes.

"South Central LA has a lot of talent, kids who know how to code, who know how to design and they're building their own companies," the founder and CEO of TxT Oscar Menjivar said.

Born in El Salvador, Menjivar is an immigrant who came to California when he was just seven years old. Growing up in South Central LA, he quickly learned that life for people like him could present a challenge.

"I had a lot of friends that were either on drugs or in gangs," Menjivar said.

But, he refused to follow in those footsteps. From the TED talks podium to the White House lawn, Menjivar has been sharing his story and his mission.

"For me it was important to start a program that would give kids an opportunity to excel, to go to college and find good jobs in the future."

And he has been doing just that: providing opportunity for teens like 16-year-old Anthony Ramirez in his TxT program. Ramirez is the project manager for his team's automated attendance invention that won the annual competition in August, along with a prize of $4,000 dollars.

University of Southern California's Annenberg School is already in talks with the young men to buy the invention which uses artificial intelligence.

"Coming from humble beginnings in an immigrant family, I really see the stereotypes when it comes to defining who we are as a people or even our work habits," Ramirez said. "And here at TxT we get rid of those prejudices and discrimination and we're seen for who we are and the potential we have to build these tech companies."

It may not be Silicon Valley, but these teens in South LA are proving that it doesn't have to be. In the eight years that the program has been around, 95 percent of their students have gone on to graduate college and are employed by companies like Google, Snapchat and Tinder.

Menjivar looks forward to the positive narrative spreading: "Let's tell them how inner city boys are changing the world through technology."

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