“I heard about SYS from a friend’s Instagram and first visited Sunset Youth Services at the We Bounce Back album release party in June of 2019. Then a homie of mine invited me to come back and work on tracks here. I aged out of the Willie Mays Boys and Girls Club, followed a staff member to the Excelsior Boys and Girls Club and now work there as a volunteer, but I wasn’t getting enough studio time, so I came to Sunset Youth Services.”
Shortly after his first SYS visit, Barnzilla (his stage name) began participating in our Digital Arts and Technology program and 6 months later was hired as an intern at Upstar Records. During that time he and his family lost their housing and lived in an emergency shelter for 6 months. “I thank God for getting me through those hard times.”
Meanwhile he continued to faithfully show up for work at our youth center while also pursuing professional development through the DCYF’s Youth Leadership Empowerment and Advocacy for Emerging Youth Leaders program––which led him to reflect, “We’re put on this earth for a reason––to love one another and not throw hatred at each other.”
Why did he keep coming back to SYS––even in the midst of exceptional hardship? “Everyone here treats me as if I’m in their family. We’re always working together on something; we’re a team. I love this place now. It’s such a great vibe to walk into.”
Since completing his internship, Barnzilla earned a Guard Card (the certification required for jobs in the security field), found a job as a security officer, and placed into Larkin Street's 2-year subsidized housing program where he lives with a roommate and is saving up money for his next step.
Listen to Barnzilla's latest original song "Homecoming" (above)––expressing what it feels like to be back in person with our youth community after a long period of social distancing and isolation. And keep listening to to hear the artist Q&A after the song!
For young people like Barnzilla, SYS offers a safe haven in the midst of family and life transitions, a place to gain skills and employment experiences on their next step to a living-wage job.