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December 30, 2020 @ 2:57 pm

Changing the Narrative-Unhoused Youth: Stories of the TAY Phillip Hargro

Big dreams come with big risks. Phillip Hargro grew up comfortably in Indiana with hardworking parents and loving grandparents. He was a part of an active creative arts community.
He came to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.  When pre-arranged plans fell through, he was left to figure it out. In his words, he was “humbled” by the challenges that came his way. He could be working on a set in Malibu by day and searching housing the very same night, never letting on about his situation to fellow cast members and employers.  He earns money in between dancing on the subway and hustling sales jobs. He utilizes the resources at The Village Family Services. Committed to his dream, he creates his own opportunities.  Here are a beautiful dance number,  his recent actor reel , and two shorts- Ambition ( about homelessness) and Conflict of Interest ( a thriller set in the BLM movement). And there's a pilot shot in Atlanta that we can’t tell you about yet.  It’s been a long humbling journey since 2017, but Phillip’s determination is starting to pay off. 

If  you need a place to turn to help you prevent homelessness or help you if you are experiencing homelessness go to  The Valley Family Services  


Produced: Betsy Foldes Meiman

Theme Song 'True' by Haunted Horses NYC  

Sound Engineering: Joe Foldes

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December 24, 2020 @ 4:33 pm

Changing the Narrative: Unhoused Youth-The Greatest Christmas Story Ever Told

 At our zoom holiday party last night, The great Gabe Evans, Connectopod collaborator, friend, and one of our professional media mentors for Changing the Narrative shared his holiday creation.  So for a Christmas, Chanukah and Festivus gift we present: 

The Greatest Christmas Story Ever Told Part 1: The Siege (follow link for the rest!)

The world's number 2 toy factory in the world is trying to take out Santa.

Hilarious fun for the whole family! 


Happy Holidays! Peace, Joy, and Love to you all. -Love Connectopod, The TAY, and The Village Family Services drop in center




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December 17, 2020 @ 4:29 pm

Changing the Narrative Unhoused Youth-Stories of the TAY: Matthew

CTN-UY_Podbean_Matthew99cii.png You never know when rain will come....Mathew Contreras was an employment specialist at The Village Family Services drop-in center for homeless youth. Always a high achiever, Matthew was able to hide his drug use and mental health issues while working and attending college until he wasn’t.  To move forward, he needed to deal with what was holding him back. Matthew knew he could turn to The Village with no judgment upon him during his most vulnerable time. The services they provide help people experiencing homelessness, but even more importantly can prevent homelessness altogether. Out and proud, and graduating from CSUN this spring, Matthew has begun to build the life he is envisioning which includes being an advocate for LGBTQ issues.


If  you need a place to turn to help you prevent homelessness or help you if you are experiencing homelessness go to  The Valley Family Services  


Produced: Betsy Foldes Meiman

Theme Song 'True' by Haunted Horses NYC  

Sound Engineering: Joe Foldes

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November 17, 2020 @ 4:32 pm

Changing the Narrative-Unhoused Youth: Shedding Light on Our Truth by Gayle Alvarez

You may remember Gayle Alvarez from such hits as the Changing the Narrative Unhoused Youth Gayle episode a few weeks back.  Or maybe you've had her help at The Village Family Services drop-in center for homeless youth in North Hollywood. Either way, Gayle is a social justice hero. She's come through her own trauma from using the DiC services to providing them as an employment specialist there. Her personal experience drives her to support other TAY (transitional age youth) experiencing or in danger of experiencing homelessness.   Gayle chose podcast journalism to convey the impact of mental health on homelessness. With the help of her mentor, recent USC Grad Student and independent journalist Natalie Reddington, Gayle brings you facts, resources, and encouragement. 


CTN-UY_Podbean_Gayle_solo_Shedding_light_on_our_truth_a10xa.pngGayle is also an artist. This is her work.Gayle_podcast_promo_ctn-uymp48rn45.png

Gayle in action recording her podcast episode


And that's Natalie on the right, working.



You can contact Gayle Alvarez if you are in need, or would like to give time, talents, or treasure at  The Valley Family Services  818-738-7327


Produced: Betsy Foldes Meiman

Theme Song 'True' by Haunted Horses NYC  

Sound Engineering: Joe Foldes

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November 11, 2020 @ 4:10 pm

Changing the Narrative Unhoused Youth-Stories of the TAY: Daniel

Daniel Estrada emanates gentle intelligence that is hard to imagine exposed to cruelty and neglect. He and his six siblings were taken from an abusive home and filtered separately through the foster care system.  He lived in 10 homes over 8 years, to finally be adopted at 17. With the help of his foster moms, he made it all the way to Cal Poly only to crumble under the weight of PTSD and depression. He ended up alone on the streets. But Daniel’s story is not done. His vivid imagination has always been a refuge. He is a talented writer drawing on his pain, but reshaping the events into expressive entertaining escapes.  Find out how he is finding his way back, with the help of the DiC (Drop-in Center) at The Village Family Services in North Hollywood.



Produced: Betsy Foldes Meiman

Theme Song 'True' by Haunted Horses NYC  

Sound Engineering: Joe Foldes

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October 11, 2020 @ 12:43 pm

Changing the Narrative Unhoused Youth -Stories of the TAY: La Lupe

Lupe Cerda’s story starts with the promise of new beginnings in a new country. Her family, a family with strong bonds, took a  leap of faith to build a better future. But life isn’t always fair, and the loss of her mother to cancer soon after arrival, set her on a different, much harder path. 


 With her father unavailable as he struggles to provide, a brother lost to his own challenges, and other traumatic events that isolate her emotionally, Lupe is left on her own to deal with the pain of grief, coming out in a traditionally conservative family, and surrendering to the call of addiction. When homelessness, addiction, and abuse, made Lupe tougher than she ever had to be, she did the bravest thing of all. She allowed herself to be vulnerable. She sought help. In recovery, housed, employed, and repairing her relationships, Lupe shares her story.


The brightest rainbows come after the worst storms.



We wish all the best to Lupe and her dad as they rebuild their relationship. 

If you need help, start here: The Village Family Services Drop-in Center for homeless youth. No questions asked, they will help you.


This episode also features fellow DiC TAY (Transitional Age Youth) Gayle Alvarez, and counselor Alejandro Soria.


Learn more about Changing the Narrative at


Produced by Betsy Foldes Meiman

Sound Engineered by Joe Foldes

Theme Song 'True' by Haunted Horses NYC  


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September 26, 2020 @ 2:08 pm

Changing the Narrative: Unhoused Youth -Stories of the TAY: Gayle

Everything is coming up roses for 24 year old Gayle Alvarez. But it was a lot of hard work to make this garden grow. From homelessness to peer counselor to employment specialist for homeless youth at The Village Family Services, she has turned her needing into leading. She shares her journey through undiagnosed mental illness and how she found her way in hopes it will encourage others who find themselves on the edge. 


Produced: Betsy Foldes Meiman

Theme Song 'True' by Haunted Horses NYC  

Sound Engineering: Joe Foldes


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September 10, 2020 @ 1:07 pm

Changing the Narrative: Unhoused Youth Intro episode

Changing the Narrative is a Connectopod series created with youth in communities that get a bad rap in the media. This is an intro episode for our third season, Changing the Narrative: Unhoused Youth, we are in residence at The Village Family Services in North Hollywood working with drop in center director Alejandro Soria.  The TAY (Transitional Age Youth) get personal about homelessness, including issues surrounding mental health, LGBTQ discrimination, pandemic madness, domestic violence, attending college, finding work, dealing with addiction, and how to rise above their situation. Mostly, they just want to be teens. 

The series content will be created in one on one interviews. Then the TAY will work remotely and individually with a professional media guest artist to create an episode about whatever they want, however they want to tell it. Will it be personal narratives? Straight out journalism? Activism? Creative  fiction? Music? Comedy? It is their story to tell.


Interviewees: Dir. Counselor Alejandro Soria, Youth Peer Counselor Bobby Villa

Produced by Betsy Foldes Meiman

Theme Song 'True' by Haunted Horses NYC  



This project is supported in part by NBC 4 /Telemundo Project Innovation, UCLA/Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity, The Max Factor Family Foundation, and for our new audio lab- Rastonea Records and Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey. Thanks to Kenny Merrill and Kevin Kapler for setting it up.


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July 6, 2020 @ 2:19 am

Reflect Connect: Connectopod Contributor Highlight- Laz Meiman

The Reflect/Connect series highlights long time Connectopod contributors. This episode features Laz Meiman, who has been with us from the very beginning! He's been a reporter, a supporter, a teacher, and this coming fall he is joining our producing team for our Changing the Narrative:Unhoused Youth series.

Laz is an independent thinker who wants to turn his perceptive talents to government, where he feels he can effective as a proponent of positive change. In this interview, we go from interesting moments in history (Fred Hampton and the Rainbow Coalition, to the stress of becoming a high school senior, to how to slice up an ox).

We love Laz because he is empathetic, perceptive, and a total team player. His passion for history has inspired some great episodes over the years. Now he is looking toward a new college chapter in his life. We can't wait to see where he goes from here!

!Laz_on_the_job_with_ferets_8w0pi.jpg doing important intern work at Assembly Member Jesse Gabriel's office.


At 10 teaching a stop motion animation workshop to fellow podcasters


Laz on the State Assembly floor in Sacramento, sponsoring a bill through the YMCA's Model Legislature and Court program


Goof in the Booth, collaborating with fellow Connectopod lifer, Daniela Catalan.






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May 29, 2020 @ 11:39 am

Changing the Narrative, Episode 3 Wanting to Live

Young. Black. Alone. How do you lift yourself up when faced with trauma, few options, and a mountain of history pinning you down? The answers lie in connection and community. Paul Terry knew from Day 1 of the Changing the Narrative  youth program what he wanted his topic to be. Having battled depression, he wanted to reach out and connect with others who might be suffering. Mentors and a sense of purpose had helped him stand back up. In his interview with  SJLI staff members, Education Equity Programs Manager and educational scholar David Turner, and Health Equity Programs Director Derek Steele, Paul searches the underlying causes of depression in communities of color. What emerges is a nuanced narrative that fills the room with affirmation and hope. 

More than half of the podcasters in our mentoring program, are mentors themselves, volunteering in their churches, at SJLI, and at various youth programs offering their musical, tutoring and coding skills. In creating opportunities for themselves in business and art and career choices, they all made choices that lift others up. Connection. Community.

Jonathan Zeno offers up "Legacy" a poem that powerfully reflects the interview with a chilling sound design by Daniel P. Castillo


Young Ambition: Be Free, Infinity, Inner Thoughts

Quest: Soul Journey

Visit the Changing the Narrative page on our site for more content

 Produced/edited by Betsy Foldes Meiman

Created in a 5 week collaboration between Connectopod and The Social Justice Learning Institute, developed and taught by by Andrea Lopez, Daniel P. Castillo, and Betsy Foldes Meiman

Original concept for Changing the Narrative by Daniel P. Castillo.

Changing the Narrative is supported in part by a generous grant from the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at 

Thank you! 



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