Boyle Heights group helps students aspire to entertainment-industry careers

BOYLE HEIGHTS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In a city as diverse as Los Angeles, there are those who feel the entertainment industry workforce as a whole doesn't reflect the diversity of our city - and they are trying to change that.

People like Carmelita Ramirez-Sanchez, the executive director of the Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory.

"There shouldn't be quotas, or numbers that you're ticking off," she says. "We should just have that complete acceptance of, our workforce should look like our city. It should."

The Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory provides education, exposure and access to the arts as a profession for all ages, hoping to inspire the next generation of creative professionals, while easing the fears of parents who might see the arts as a high-risk career choice.

"A parent doesn't want their child coming home and saying, I would like to be a DJ, or I would like to be a grip, or I'd like to be a camera person. That's very frightening," says Ramirez-Sanchez.

Nestor "Lil Nes" Hernandez, a 14-year-old designer and aspiring podcast host from Lancaster, made connections with Converse shoe brand with help from the Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory. He was eventually chosen as the designer for the NBA's West team celebrity game jersey during this year's NBA all-star weekend.

Regarding the Boyle Heights Conservatory Hernandez says, "It's definitely a place to go to if you need any help, if you want to kind of advance where you are. If you're new, if you know you have a talent and you want to seek more, this is definitely a place to go to."

Ramirez-Sanchez continues, "Lil Nes understood, I'm sure through his parents at a very young age, 'I want to be a designer' and wasn't told no. You want others around you to be able to create and foster that kind of success to normalize that kind of conversation."

About half of the BHAC students come from Boyle Heights, while the other half are from surrounding communities, but all are taught the arts can heal and provide a livelihood by professionals like Omar G. Ramirez who is an artist and professor.

"We're hoping that through projects that we do, whether it's photography, whether it's podcasting, or whether it's mural making, we're providing them an opportunity and holding space for them to build their agency and to recognize their own agency," says Ramirez.

For Ramirez-Sanchez, it's all about normalizing someone's dreams, whatever that might look like.

"The same as any pre-K kid in the class today can be like, 'I want to be a nurse,' 'I want to be a doctor,' 'I would like to be a gaffer,' - 'I'd like to be a light person,' you know, 'I would like to be an animator.' That is important."

By removing the barriers to opportunities in a creative field, the Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory helps young people realize they can make a living doing what they love.

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