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#TFA25: Regional Pins Designed by Young Creative Agency
As a finalist for Teach For America’s 2015 Social Innovation Award, Alberta Wright (Greater New Orleans ‘10) is no stranger to attention for her exceptional creativity and inspiring efforts for kids. But it’s safe to say the outpouring of love and affection for her organization’s work at the 25th Anniversary Summit set a new bar.
Alberta and the talented kids at Young Creative Agency, based in New Orleans, were responsible for the adorable regional pins that graced lapels, lanyards, bags, and even dogs at TFA’s recent event in Washington, D.C. From a subway car (New York) to a peach (Atlanta), each pin represents its region’s unique identity with colorful flair.
Growing up, Alberta’s artist parents always instilled in her an unwavering sense of social justice and a responsibility to act. “They taught me never to be a bystander to injustice,” she says. As a teen, she became immersed in the arts and was deeply influenced by an organization called Artists for Humanity, an inclusive youth arts and enterprise nonprofit. Her exposure to Artists for Humanity changed how she thought about the arts and its ability to bring people together and create change.
While attending Barnard College, Alberta began to think seriously about how she could make a difference in the world. She was drawn to education reform, which at the time, she saw as the root of racial inequity, and took a community organizing class. Those experiences eventually led her to apply to Teach For America.
One day, during her time as a corps member, Alberta, who taught 9th grade English, ran into one of her tougher students in the hallway. He was wearing a unique t-shirt with a hand-drawn circle logo emblazoned in the center of it. She asked the student if he had created the shirt himself…He had.
A light bulb went off: Here was an example of sophisticated creativity and problem solving that she had never seen this student display in class. Alberta asked herself, “What if he had a place where he could create like this with the guidance of an experienced mentor? And what if he was paid to do it?”
In 2013, Alberta founded the Young Creative Agency to fill this gap and provide young people from across socio-economic boundaries with the opportunity to gain real-world experience and self-sufficiency through paid employment in New Orleans’ booming creative economy. With the guidance of experienced mentors, teens work after school and during the summer months on digital media and graphic design projects commissioned from local businesses and individuals.
“The students go through the entire process, from conceiving ideas to pitching to clients, and they are trained on how to receive feedback,” Alberta says. “Ultimately, they learn that their voice matters.”
In the case of Teach For America’s popular pins, Young Creative Agency worked with TFA’s design team, led by Suzi Speedling, to gather suggestions for pin images from each region. The group’s most skilled illustrators created several iterations of each design, presented them to Suzi’s team, and learned how to mock up selected designs in Illustrator with the assistance of a mentor. The pins’ successful reception at TFA’s 25th Anniversary Summit speaks volumes—in addition to being charming and collectible, they are the product of a thoughtful process and meaningful origin story.
Young Creative Agency currently focuses on print and product design, but its expansion plans include adding web design, user experience (UX), photography, and industrial design to its roster of commissions. Alberta hopes to prepare 1,000 youth in the next six years for creative careers. She is even in conversations about duplicating the organization’s program model in San Francisco and New York and accepting larger-scale jobs.
Today, however, Alberta and Young Creative Agency are dedicated fully to the people and needs of New Orleans—preparing its teens for fulfilling, creative careers and ensuring their voices are heard loud and clear.