Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An Afternoon of Change

Change was clearly in the air on September 25 as about 150 youth from throughout Los Angeles gathered for the first annual Youth Conversations Luncheon on domestic violence held by The Change to benefit Jenesse Center, Inc.

The outdoor barbecue and conversations event is part of The Change's continuing effort to educate adolescents about handling situations without using violence or emotional abuse and discussed the signs that are considered characteristics of an endangering relationship. The event mixed comedy with serious and frank conversations about domestic violence.

Founded by Bryson Rouzan-Thomas, Chelsea Dern and Natalia Villaraigosa, The Change is a youth organization dedicated to the idea that in order to see change, you have to be the change. The Change members include: Bryson Rouzan-Thomas, President & Co-Founder; Chelsea Dern, Vice President & Co-Founder; Kelley Butler, Secretary; Natalia Villaraigosa, Treasurer & Co-Founder; Michael Stennis, Event Manager; and Jordan Butler, Johanna Holman, Meadow Holman, Brianna Rouzan and Pilar Stennis.

“It is sad to ponder on the fact that we may have friends or family members that are in an abusive relationship but are remaining silent,” said Rouzan-Thomas. “Many are not even aware of the situation that they are in because they have not been educated about the signs.”

The luncheon was held at the home of Dr. & Mrs. Alan Todd Turner, who are continous supporters of Jenesse Center, Inc. and The Change. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and last year's Jenesse's Silver Rose Gala Honoree Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas were in attendance and presented The Change with a certificate of continuous service to the community.

Rouzan-Thomas has been involved with Jenesse Center from a very young age. His mother Sherron Rouzan-Thomas has supported Jenesse for years and she empowered him and his older brother Brandon to volunteer at Jenesse. What he saw had a deep effect on how he viewed the world.

“I know this may sound corny, but I always knew that I was never going to just sit back and hope things would one day be different," said Rouzan-Thomas. "I knew I was a change maker. I also knew that I couldn’t change things alone, which is why I partnered with my friends so that together we could use our combined resources and skills to reach as many people as possible.”

Jenesse Center’s Executive Director Karen Earl admires the work The Change is doing to reach the next generation.

“It is just amazing for me to see so many young people coming together around this issue. It really gives me hope that the work we are doing is changing the way that people view domestic violence. Ten years ago, I’m not sure if something like this would have happened. I’m really glad that the young people who come to volunteer with us are soaking in our message and are feeling passionate enough to share in this work.”

Jenesse Center’s Board President, Avis Frazier-Thomas agrees.

“I am so proud of all the members of The Change and all the young people who work with Jenesse throughout the year and who use their talents to benefit the families that Jenesse serves. They have dedicated themselves to making real change in the communities they live in. When I see them, I see Jenesse’s future.”

The luncheon concluded with guest speakers West Division LAPD Captain Evangelyn Nathan and Exectuive Producer Mara Brock-Akil, along with luncheon participants signing their "iPledge," a promise to never use violence and to take the education they learned from the event and incorporate it in their daily lives.

For more information about The Change contact Bryson Rouzan-Thomas at For more information about Jenesse Center, Inc. visit their official website at