Monserrat Rodriguez Ortiz is a 15-year-old, Oakland student, who is featured in the book “Youth Wisdom.” The book release took place at the Cesar Chavez Branch Library in the Fruitvale District of Oakland, Calif., on Thursday June 25, 2013. It is a publication of the Homies Empowerment Program. Cesar Cruz, co-founder of the program explains that Homies Empowerment works with “kids that are gang impacted, and in this neighborhood, who isn’t gang impacted? But we’re not a gang prevention program.” The program strives to educate the youth with “knowledge of self classes.” Rodriguez Ortiz explains that from Cruz she has learned about Raza history and the community. She hopes that through the book people see that Oakland youth “are not how people think they are” and that they “are making a change.”

“Youth Wisdom” features the work of 25 students from Arise High School who also participate in Homies Empowerment, including four pieces by Rodriguez Ortiz. According to the back cover of the book, the pieces “express life lessons bringing forth hope and a vision for a new way to live.”

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