Underserved students take part in hands-on workshops to help start careers in entertainment, tech industries

Just getting your foot in the door to a career in entertainment or technology is a challenge. But one local program makes sure talented students in underserved communities get a chance.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Often, the hardest part of starting a career is just getting your foot in the door. It can be especially hard if you are young and live in an underserved community. There's one program that's offering a solution - and the opportunity of a lifetime.

After a six week virtual internship, 21-year old Juan Mendoza, says he's more confident than ever of his potential to become a filmmaker. That's thanks to the Snap Design Academy.

"Movies, TV, you know, whatever, good stories I can tell," said Mendoza.

Mendoza has had his share of hardships. He and his four siblings were raised in Inglewood and Lennox by a single mother who struggled.

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"I was also in the foster system, so kind of bounced around a little bit for a couple of years," said Mendoza.

He dropped out of high school, but eventually earned his GED, set his sights on college and is now a junior at Chapman College. He has a clear vision for his future and he credits his new-found confidence, in part, to his recent internship, sponsored by Snapchat, called Snap Design Academy.

"It's not just a good resume builder, it's taught me confidence in my creative abilities," said Mendoza.

Jose Garcia runs Snap Academy.

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"They get hands-on training. They go through an entire curriculum. We have employees from Snapchat come in, give workshops and fireside chats. The scholars receive mentorships. They receive a scholarship stipend, a computer, monitors," said Garcia. "The goal is really to prepare disconnected youth from the tech industry to help them get jobs in the industry after the program."

Snap Design Academy is one of the internships and job placement opportunities available on hirelayouth.com, an L.A. city sponsored website aimed at helping young Angelenos with education and employment.

"It can be students in community colleges, it could be students who are formerly incarcerated, foster youth, who are very talented, have the skill set and who are very competent but just need that foot in the door to really take advantage of opportunities," said Garcia

Those opportunities are facilitated through a collaboration between city leaders, educational institutions, the private sector and non-profits like Unite L.A., which works to recruit companies.

"We kind of help on that side and cultivate relationships with the employers that the youth are eventually, eventually placed at," said Jaideep Upadhyay with Unite L.A.

"It's really a community effort," said Garcia. "When you bring together city government and programs like Hire L.A. Youth, educational institutions and private companies, we can kind of have these conversations and say here's the problem we're addressing and we can all work together and provide different resources to create great solutions like this."

"Sometimes you need luck for connections, you know, and that's just how it is," said Mendoza. "So this was really nice because it gave an equal opportunity to a bunch of people that

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