Youth Voices Against Violence – Teens awarded for powerful spoken word

SEATTLE – Youth Voices Against Violence announces the winners of its national audio contest.


Grand Prize: “Another City Night” by Sule Cerdan, 20, Philadelphia

Awards of Excellence:
“Poetry Saved by Life” by Jaiana Brown, 15, Seattle
“Numbers” by Troy Osaki, 20, Seattle

Youth Voices Against Violence is an anti-violence campaign through YTech at the Metrocenter YMCA in partnership with and These organizations bring youth together to engage with issues that affect them most and equip them with media skills to propel their voices and help make a difference.

The winning audio piece is a poem that explores what goes on inside the mind of an innocent victim moments before their death. “I wanted to address a powerful topic in the best possible way I could,” says Sule Cerdan, the winning artist from Philadelphia. “Thanks for giving me the opportunity to express myself.”

Youth across the country were asked to submit audio pieces on the topic during the month  of November and December.

“We had a lot of participation locally as well as from Philadelphia,” says Colleen McDevitt, YTech Youth Media Educator and founder of Tabu. “Spoken word came out on top but students also interviewed peers, read monologues, created beats or even called in with a voicemail.” All entries can be heard at

The contest was judged by a panel of young people, youth media educators and invested community members. Winners will receive local and national publicity in addition to grant awards to continue their advocacy work: $500 for first place and $250 per Award of Excellence.

Though the contest has ended, YTech staff and youth will continue their anti-violence campaign over the next year. “Our young people really broke the silence around the issue and we received so many compelling submissions,” says Niki Warncke, YTech Youth Media Educator. “Now, we just have to do something powerful with them.”

Keep an eye out for upcoming events that will showcase the contest winners and other local talent who will perform their songs, poetry and monologues related to youth violence. All organizations and individuals interested are welcome to participate!

Contact: Colleen McDevitt
More details and an audio curriculum and program guide: Connect Online: @youthviolence


YTech is a leader in the digital inclusion movement, providing access to technology and skills training to teach young people to be producers, not just consumers of media.

tabulogo fromFB

Tabu offers compensation in the forms of grants for young people to use a variety of media to explore and talk about taboo topics.

Puget SoundOff is the online platform, supported by the City of Seattle, where young people learn to connect with peers, create networks and share their voices. Together, they work to create approachable curriculum and programs that engage young people in meaningful discussion, digital arts creation and community action.


Former YTech Staff Wins National Award

The Muscular Dystrophy Association named YTech’s 2-year Americorps volunteer, Jonathan Porter, the recipient of its 2013 Robert Ross National Personal Achievement Award… and we think he’s tha man! MDA’s magazine, Quest, writes all about it

Pioneer Spirit Helps Seattle Man Win Top Honor

Jonathan Porter has a problem with the word limitation.“Sure, people with muscular dystrophy have limitations,” he says, “but hey, everyone has limitations — whether you’re in a wheelchair or you’re too short or too skinny — we all have limitations. I say, don’t look at what you have as a limitation, look at it as who you are and get on with your life.”

It doesn’t take long to realize this enthusiastic young man has a very positive view of life. “I can’t walk, but I’m very, very outgoing,” he chuckles.

This power of positive thinking, coupled with his personal achievements and unselfish work on behalf of others with disabilities contributed to Porter, of Seattle, being named the recipient of the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Robert Ross National Personal Achievement Award for 2013.

Teacher and advocate

Since graduating from Seattle University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, he has worked as a budget analyst as well as a small business consultant intern.Porter, 26, was given a diagnosis of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) at the age of 3, and has been using a wheelchair since age 4.

Once the students learn their new skills, they’re encouraged to create art, blogs and videos to post on a Y-sponsored website. Called Puget Soundoff, the site is a forum for youth to share their artistic visions and express their opinions.For the past two years, Porter worked as a technology instructor for the YMCA of Greater Seattle’s YTech team, training at-risk youth and older GED students in the use of different digital technologies, including photography, graphic design, videography and video production.

Recently, Porter was appointed to the Seattle Mayor’s Commission for People with Disabilities, where he advocates for policy changes regarding transportation, housing, employment and public access. He finds the work very satisfying.

As an example of what the commission does, Porter cites the planned renovation of Seattle’s waterfront area “to make it a social hub like it used to be. We’re in constant contact with the restoration planning group, strongly encouraging them to include accessibility in their designs, to make sure people in wheelchairs, people who are blind or deaf, will be able to use all facilities. From the ground up, they need to build in accessibility.”

A pioneer spirit

Porter’s relationship with MDA stretches back to his early youth. He attended MDA summer camp from the time he was 5 until he turned 21. He served three terms as a local MDA Goodwill Ambassador and was the Washington State Goodwill Ambassador in 1998.

He continues to participate in many of MDA’s fundraising events such as Fill the Boot, Lock-Up and the Shamrocks campaign. He also frequently speaks at MDA young adult group events regarding transitioning to college and living independently.

Jonathan Porter has a certain pioneer spirit about him. He’s never shied away from taking the lead, from putting himself out there as point man for others with similar issues to follow. He wants to ensure a positive and memorable legacy.

“When people see me, I want them to think, ‘Because he spoke out, people are more aware.’” Porter says, adding, “If I have a voice, I’m going to use it. If I have the energy, I’m going to use it.”

ARTICLE BY: RICHARD SENTI, More about Jonathan can be read at MDA’s website:)

About the MDA Personal Achievement Award

Initiated in 1992, the Robert Ross Personal Achievement Award recognizes the exemplary accomplishments and community service of people affected by one of the more than 40 neuromuscular diseases in MDA’s program.

MDA’s late chief executive, Robert Ross, created the award to demonstrate to the public that disability is no obstacle to achievement. The 2012 PAA recipient is the late Scott Crane, 23, an amateur chef and humanitarian from Northbrook, Ill. Sadly, Crane, who was affected by myotubular myopathy, passed away the same day his family received notice of the award.