‘Adolescent Activist ‘ by Yesica Rosales

This piece was part of the Ánimo Voices Competition, which invited students to write about innovators, upstanders, visionaries, or rebels that have made a difference in their local or broader communities. The competition was an opportunity to motivate, recognize, and celebrate our strong student voices through writing and art.

Adolescent Activist

by Yesica Rosales, 12th grade, Ánimo Jackie Robinson Charter High School


Her mission is “be a force for good on the planet”. Online, she goes by “Adolescent Activist”, but in real life, her name is Lily Larsen. This young seventeen year old, who was born and raised in the city of Los Angeles, has dedicated her years to advocate for youth in distinct political issues. She began paving the road for other young activists at the age of five, when she participated in the “Million Man March”. Now, she addresses everything from animal rights, to women’s rights, to theater rights for inmates. Aside from being an inspiration and role model for many young activists, she contributes to positive changes happening in Los Angeles.

I met her in the summer of 2017 when we both traveled to Portland, Oregon to a National Theater Conference with Center Theater Group called “Full Circle”. Through this conference, we not only learned about the different forms of theater, but we presented a workshop to professionals in the acting world about the impact that teenagers have on the future of theater. During this trip, I had the opportunity to be roommates with Lily and learn from her past experiences. This conference consisted of many individual workshops that extended over three days. While we each elected the workshops we wanted to assist, she was drawn to the “Shakespeare Behind Bars: The Power of Drama In A Women's Prison” book panel. Her desire to change the prison system was what pushed her into reading this book. This book showed her that there are programs, such as “Shakespeare Behind Bars”, that teaches inmates how to develop life skills that will successfully help them reintegrate into society. After attending the panel, the inspiration seeped through her. She recalled the compassionate tone that Curt L. Tofteland used when referring to the inmates and the wisdom he had as he spoke about us all just “being humans”. The panel created a safe space for her to voice her opinion and she wanted to help bring that safe space to others. However, the program “Shakespeare Behind Bars” requires that participants and volunteers are at least eighteen years of age. Lily is anxiously waiting for the day she turns eighteen to attend and participate in these workshops.

A month after Lily and I attended the Full Circle Theater Conference, I came upon a post from her website titled “Blood in Our Mobile Phones”. In her article, Lily addressed the oppression of women in Congo and how it is intertwined with the making of our electronic devices. As I was reading her article the line that caught my eye read “the sacrifices that are made so we can swipe right, hit Like and set our phones to “vibrate” are an intolerable form of genocide, while the rest of the world turns a blind eye”. In her captivating blog post, I was informed of the abundance of dangers that women in Congo face; not only because of the labor abuse that they are imposed with, but also the rapid increase of rape and dehumanization that takes place. Lily decided to shed light on this issue at school. There she discovered that the majority of her teachers and peers were unaware of this issue. In order to alert more people about this horrible genocide that was occurring, she sought the help of Amani Matabaro, founder of “Actions pour le Bien être de la Femme et de l’Enfant au Congo”. This foundation provides programs and education for women and children in Congo. Her inclination to help these helpless individuals prompted her to spread awareness not only to her school, but also to her online audience. She encouraged people to help by volunteering and/or donating to different organizations in addition to spreading awareness of the issue. As a concerned adolescent myself, I shared her article through my social media to help raise awareness to the delicate issue that she had introduced me to.

More recently, one of Lily’s most impactful actions was giving a speech to over 850 Neighborhood Council Participants, City Officials, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas. In her speech she communicated the importance of youthful perspective in the Neighborhood Council. Her speech consisted of letting her audience know the impact that she feels she created by participating in programs such as Empower LA Civic Youth Leadership Academy, which allowed youth to create community events, such as clean up. These type of hands-on programs helped her visualize the change she was creating. She taught me that “creating change” was no longer just an idea or thought, it has now become concrete actions and plans. One of her many reasons to why she argues that youthful voices are needed is because they are fearless. We dream big and plan even bigger, but also know how to compromise and be flexible. With this speech, Lily opened doors for the youth to participate and let their voices be heard in Neighborhood Councils. She advocated for adults to sincerely include and listen to what the youth has to say and not take them as a joke.

Lily Larsen, also known as an Adolescent Advocate, has been the greatest inspiration in regards to becoming involved with our community. Her early start as an advocate indicates that there is no age limit or requirement to stand up for not only yourself, but for those who are coming after you. Not only is she an inspirational activist, but she is a humble and kind individual. I am grateful that I was able to dorm with her, but also learn more from her through her informational blogs/posts. She has inspired me to utilize writing as a weapon against injustices and because of her, I decided to join the Mayor’s Youth Council.