Earlier this month, our founder Richard Reyes was featured in one of KPCC's Unheard LA Live storytelling shows. He shared a 9-minute version of the story he shares with students with over 300 guests in Hollywood. His narrative begins at the 9 minute mark.
We are at the BOOST (Best-Out-Of-School-Time) Conference in Palm Springs, CA for our second year and we look forward to hosting a brand new workshop today.
Here are 4 key points Richard will share with workshop guests:
We are proud to release our Motivational March 2017 Campaign Calendar. Throughout the month, we will visit 31 schools and motivate thousands of students throughout Los Angeles!
We are hiring!
The PLUS ME Project is dedicated to helping students reach their potential by sharing personal narratives from relatable role models and showing students that they too can succeed under challenging circumstances. As a PLUS ME Champion, you would share your personal experiences and story to thousands of middle and high school students in the greater LA area. Since 2013, we have trained over 10 Champions who have inspired over 30,000 students from over 100 schools throughout Southern California. We currently have volunteer and paid Champion positions available on our team. If you are interested in joining the PLUS ME Champion team and empowering future leaders, please see the detailed job description and application attached.
“Life is about making an impact, not making an income.”
– Kevin Kruse
Our founder, Richard Reyes, is a living example of someone who has passionately pursued his calling in life – inspiring students through sharing personal narratives.
While earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in Critical Theory/Social Justice from Occidental College, he discovered the power of storytelling. He launched the 10,000 PLUS Project and set out on a journey to inspire 10,000 or more students by sharing with them his road to college.
Throughout his senior year at Oxy, he visited over 70 schools and impacted almost 13,000 students – successfully completing his project. After graduation, Richard secured a job in the private sector and retired the project. He no longer was visiting schools and sharing his story with classrooms full of students.
A few short months into his new job, he realized his work was not fulfilling him. He wondered what his passion was and thought about what he enjoyed doing the most. Then it clicked.
He researched opportunities online where he could make money sharing his story. After an hour of research, he realized there were not any companies hiring people to visit schools and share their stories. This was the moment he told himself, “If the job is not available, I will create it!”
In July 2013, Richard decided to take the leap. After learning the step-by-step process of starting a non-profit from Nonprofit for Dummies, he launched The PLUS ME Project. Without any seed funding, he took a grassroots approach and attempted to grow the organization.
After facing dozens of hurdles in the first year of operation, Richard decided he would leave his job, pursue another post-secondary degree, and work on expanding PLUS ME. After earning his Master of Arts degree in Education from California State University, Los Angeles in December 2014, he committed himself full-time to fulfilling the mission of our project.
To date, Richard and his team have visited over 100 schools and have impacted over 30,000 students through inspirational storytelling.
Follow your passion. Pursue your dreams.
Giving Tuesday connects diverse groups of people, communities, and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving. Held on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and Black Friday, Giving Tuesday is designed for you to give a little to a cause you truly believe in.
Throughout the holiday season, we will be encouraging our supporters to give to PLUS ME. In honor of reaching our 100th school last month, we have set a goal to reach 100 donors by the end of the year.
Share the love this season and help us inspire thousands of students throughout 2017 by making a pledge of any amount below.
Our Storytellers PLUS ME program is one of my favorite programs to facilitate with PLUS ME because of the consistently surprising and transformative results we see. On any given presentation day the students file into the classrooms on their cell phones, laughing with each other in their small, carefully selected cliques. They sit in dispersed fashion and often have very little idea about what they are about to engage in with Storytellers.
I introduce myself and the Storytellers program and we begin our discussion on how to talk about our personal experiences in a safe way. If I told the students what they would be sharing by the end of the class, they would mostly say, ‘No way! Not me,’ and possibly walk out of the classroom at that point. This is precisely why I love this work. A real transformation takes place from the beginning to the end of these workshops.
Individuals are shifted and more centered in some very important and healing ways. There is an adjustment from a highly defensive posture to a softened and more open way of presenting oneself, as well as a willingness to connect and support one another.
I am always so heartened and astonished when I watch students take a step to share their personal story, to lay themselves bare and vulnerable in front of their peers with sometimes just a small anecdote from their life. What unfolds is so much more than they expect. They, for often the first time, own a challenge in their life, allow this challenge to be witnessed by many, and then the magic happens, they are well received. They are listened to, honored, and are exposed to a space where they can be exactly who they are in that moment. Who they are is an unapologetically open person who has been compromised, experienced great loss, encountered abuse, or any other number of personal tragedies most of us experience but feel we must tuck away in order to be seen as sufficient, competent, strong, or acceptable.
What we as a society have backwards, Storytellers gets right. As adults we are often so busy tailoring our story to our selected audiences, be it co-workers, family and friends, or partners. We do this so we can get our needs met and to be deserving of love. The unexpected truth is this: it is our honest stories and tales of our struggles that draw people in and bring us the support and connection we truly long for and desire.
To watch these young students get an opportunity to be seen by others for life experiences they thought would make them less than or unloveable is a remarkable and moving event each time. They receive support and validation and see how connection truly works.
How does connection truly work? When we reveal the truth of our situations and who we are, we also reveal the place in us where others can connect with us. And shockingly this moving and transformative experience of being open and receiving quality support from peers is only part of what Storytellers does.
Never before have I worked with a program that accomplishes so much with such simplicity. This very modest and clear formula creates a vast and multi-dimensional impact. The first dimension is the personal. The students get a chance to introspect and to be asked questions about themselves, their successes and challenges and other life events. This is a rare time where the student is able to look at his or her life in a safe space with no demands put on them and their perspective is validated. As the students begin to share parts of their stories they realize something deeply comforting, “I am not the only one.” The students come to see they aren’t alone in facing struggles and quite often someone in the class is going through the same thing. This invariably builds up the students and inspires hope in them.
This sharing leads to the second dimension Storytellers accomplishes, the interpersonal. The students are able (through the willingness to accept the vulnerability of sharing their story) to connect and relate to their peers in the classroom. Bonds are built, and in addition to realizing they aren’t alone in the struggle, the students often find they have a new friend or two in their network. The program introduces the idea of a social network that can be a source of support and compassion. We encourage students to stay in touch with the people in the class and support one another as a new network.
Finally we reach a third dimension, professional. Storytellers offers the transformative experience of having control over one’s life narrative. An empowering shift occurs starting from ‘this happened to me’ to ‘I survived this challenge because of my qualities and strengths.’ This new perspective sets students up for a powerful ‘can do’ attitude in their lives. Students are able to then have an empowered story they can tell the world when applying for work, grants/scholarships, or college applications.
Which leads us to one of the most practical applications of the Storytellers program. At the completion of the Storytellers workshop students have created a comprehensive portfolio of challenging events in their lives, personal strengths that got them through, and lessons learned. They have now accessed the content they need to write their personal statements for their college applications.
As Alice Walker said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” By the end of our Storytellers seminar the students better understand their personal power and the power contained in their peer network. They are set on the path to live their highest potential with their greatest assets, themselves and the strength of their story.
Please reach out to the PLUS ME project for opportunities for the students in your life!
Jessica Campain is a presenter with the PLUS ME project. She has a passion for working with groups while facilitating people in self-exploration, connection, and empowerment.
This month we conducted our first volunteer run Guest Speakers PLUS ME program at South El Monte High School and Sal Castro Middle School. We brought four inspiring successful adults from the film/media/marketing fields to inspire over 200 students. Here are some thoughts from these volunteers about the journey.
"It was such a fulfilling experience to be able to give back to the students in a way that I wish others did for me as a kid. Being in those rooms made me realize how important it is for these kids to have good role models to inspire them. These students inspired me just as much, if not more, than I feel I inspired them. What the PLUS ME project is doing is AMAZING! Every school should be integrated with their program."
"We were asked to share our stories and inspire the next generation, but in return we walked out of these schools just as inspired. It truly meant a lot to see kids stick around after the presentation to engage with us and talk about their dreams!"
Erika De La Cruz
"One of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Greatness begins and ends for me with who else I can make great."
Want to volunteer to share YOUR story?
Show them your VALUES
Open up and share your truth with them. Prevent yourself from sugar coating your life story and be willing to expose your struggles.
Allow yourself to unapologetically be you around them. Do not hide who you are or pretend to be someone you are not.
Be a Listener
Give them an opportunity to talk and genuinely hear them out. Allow them to express themselves and share their truth with you.
Create a safe, judgement free space around them. Empathize with them and relate to what they are struggling with.
Fill their buckets with positive affirmations and tell them that you believe in them. Praise them when they accomplish their goals.
Let them know you are there for them and will accept them for who they are. Attend events they are apart of and involve yourself in their life.
They need YOU
Richard Reyes is the founder/executive director of the PLUS ME project. To date, he has shared his personal narrative with over 40,000 students throughout Southern California and proudly considers himself a role model.
Are you looking to inspire your students as they embark on the upcoming school year or want to support them with staying motivated throughout the year? If so, our team is here for you!
the PLUS ME project is a youth development non-profit based in Los Angeles that inspires and encourages students to discover their potential by sharing personal narratives from relatable role models. Throughout the 2015 - 2016 school year, we impacted over 12,500 students from over 60 schools in Southern California while maintaining a 95% approval rating.
We are currently looking to fill our calendar for the 2016 – 2017 school year and would love to visit your school. Our Guest Speakers PLUS ME program brings our team members to you to share their paths to success with your students. Our presenters discuss the academic and social obstacles they encountered throughout their lives and share how they overcame everything to reach their success. We relate to, motivate, and educate students by showing Proof Learners Ultimately Succeed with Motivation and Education.
This unique program is available to any middle or high school throughout Southern California and operates off an optional donation based system.
2016 – 2017 Calendar
August 15th - December 23rd, 2016
January 9th - June 16th, 2017
"Being a part of PLUS ME has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. For a long time I was unaware that my story had the ability to empower others and help them build the courage to open up about their past. At 25 years old, I found my voice and it is with this voice that I will continue to speak up and encourage young men and women to discover theirs." - Saíd Gonzalez
Our Third Annual Silent Auction/Benefit was an event we will never forget. Thank you to everyone who attended, donated, or sponsored our event this year. Together, we raised over $18,000 that will go directly towards our program work for the 2016-2017 school year. We look forward to our Fourth Annual event and we hope to see you there!
IR & KUMUD PATEL
A Noise Within
Adele's of Hollywood
Aquarium of the Pacific
Children's Museum at La Habra
Diet For Health with Amy
Eat Naked LA
El Pollo Loco
Emerald Isle Golf Course
Golf N Stuff
Gourmet Gift Baskets
Halper Fine Art
Hollywood Wax Museum
Howl At The Moon
Kidspace Children's Museum
LA County Fair
La Mirada Theatre
Natural Gems Jewelry
Natural History Museum
Olio e Limone
San Diego Zoo
Santa Barbara Zoo
Stone Fire Grill
Temple City Dental Care
Total Wine & More
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Wheel of Fortune
Wink Lash Studio
"Your personal statement should be exactly that — personal. This is your opportunity to tell us about yourself — your hopes, ambitions, life experiences and inspirations. Be open. Be reflective. Find your individual voice and express it honestly."
Millions of high school students each year are faced with this daunting task. They must condense their life story into a specific word count (for the UC system it's under 1,000) and convince a group of evaluators that they deserve to be admitted to the college of their dreams.
For some seventeen year olds, this task is one they've been anxiously awaiting years for. Their parents likely informed them of this as freshmen in high school and some probably began drafting versions of their college personal statements years before they could even apply. These students will likely do very well and get accepted into a majority of the colleges they apply to.
For others, though, this process will not come as easy. Some students will read the personal statement prompt only weeks or even days before their application is due.
"Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?" (UC Application question)
For students who do not believe they have accomplished much in their lives, this will be extremely difficult to complete. For students who do not believe they have a story, this will be extremely difficult to complete. For students who lack confidence and the ability to articulate their personal strengths, this will be extremely difficult to complete.
the PLUS ME project has come into contact with countless students over the past two years who fall into this category. Many are completely unaware of their accomplishments, life experiences, and personal strengths. They struggle with articulating and writing out their story.
Storytellers PLUS ME was created to help solve this problem. Our program is designed to work with students on developing and articulating their own personal narratives. When students complete our program, they leave with a self-constructed personal narrative that features the accomplishments, strengths, and experiences from their lives. Their narratives feature the characters that impacted their lives, the events that changed them, and the lessons they have learned.
Our goal is to bring Storytellers PLUS ME to as many high school students as we can. We want to support students with creating their personal narratives and turning them into powerful college personal statements.
Support us in this journey. Give here.