We intended to highlight the 20/20 Visionaries-to-Watch featuring Richard Reyes at PLUS ME Project much earlier in 2020, but we found it wise to hold his story until it felt right to release.
When you think of the word vision, you almost immediately associate that word with sight, your sensory ability. It is something required to turn a thought into innovation. To have vision doesn’t specifically mean the ability to see something physically, but rather an intention or inclination to create change.
At the beginning of 2020, OBVIOUS had intentions of using our vision to create new stories, highlight new outlooks, and continue offering the cutting edge content that our viewers have grown to love over the years.
What started out as a promising new decade quickly turned into a dark age of disorder as COVID-19 became a global threat that altered all of our realities.
Amid the pandemic, the masks of American “justice” started to show themselves more clearly than ever before as an uprising from the Black Lives Matter movements called out the wrongful murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others at the hands of police brutality.
One thing was sure: It clouded our vision.
There needed to be some refocusing of what matters and what messaging #TeamOBVIOUS could provide to its audience that would resonate with something optimistic and hopeful.
The world has now spent more than half of the year enduring the stress of these trying times, yet we can still look towards the people making a difference as a means of inspiration.
There’s no doubt that the individuals selected in this article showcase a tenacity and touch of creativity that has shown the potential for greatness in their lives and for others.
They’ve used their heart and motivation to strive for change and create space for new generations to learn from them.
It is with great honor that OBVIOUS Magazine presents: The 2020 Visionaries To Watch.
20/20 Visionaries: Richard Reyes, Executive Director at PLUS ME Project
How does storytelling positively impact youth?
Richard Reyes: Storytelling is a magical tool that can have a profound impact on youth. When someone enters into their space and vulnerably shares a life story with them, it can provide an outlet for youth to connect with a role model they never had access to.
This allows them to gain inspiration and advice from someone who experienced similar hardships in their lives growing up; and realize that they can overcome barriers to reach their success in the future.
It provides hope and allows youth to envision themselves in their future. Storytelling is also powerful because we can feel it, and these emotions allow youth to humanize their experiences.
What sets the PlusME Project apart from other similar organizations?
Richard Reyes: PLUS ME Project is a community-based partner in Los Angeles that empowers youth to build their confidence for college and career advancement by teaching the art of storytelling.
We are unique in our space in that we have built an innovative program model centered on the personal narrative.
Our motto is Your Story Matters and what sets us apart from other organizations is not only do we bring inspirational stories into schools to inspire youth, but we also provide a platform and process that allows youth to learn how to build and share their own stories.
What words of encouragement would you give to the next generation that will follow in your footsteps?
Richard Reyes: The words of encouragement I would give to the next generation of storytellers are remembering to take a deep breath and always go for it. In our lives, there are often opportunities that present themselves to us or that are available for us to find.
It’s incredibly vital that when we are faced with decisions to either pursue something new or stay complacent, we take on those new experiences and take risks by pursuing things that make us uncomfortable.
In those moments, we must remember everyone feels the same way when faced with something new, but the successful ones usually move past the fear and step into their greatness.
How have you or your business had to pivot during this global pandemic?
Richard Reyes: PLUS ME had to pivot mid-March once all schools closed completely. Since our programs are conducted in-person throughout the school day, we could not continue to provide services to our youth the way we usually did.
We had to be creative, and within ten days, our team designed an entirely new experience that would bring our mission to the world: Our Stories Matter: A 10-Week Community Journaling Experience provided social and emotional support for high school students and adults.
This virtual experience created a space for us to reflect on, write down, and share our stories. Week by week, we connected as a community through collective journaling and storytelling exercises in PLUS ME’s My Story Matters Journal and on social media.