It was some time in the middle of January, on an early Monday morning. I had to go to juvenile court for a traffic citation I got for speeding. I heard stories of how scary and intimidating judges can be. My family told me if I was going to fight the case, I had to watch my words. They also warned me on my decisions and choices. That morning I had to wake my mom up and take her with me to court.

As we arrived, my case was postponed since there was no Hmong translator for my mom. We waited for a few hours, which made me more nervous.

Then suddenly, beep! “May Dasen Thao report to the juvenile court for a traffic misdemeanor,” said the officer through the intercom. Now my heart was pacing faster as if it were going to burst. However, I entered the room with a relaxed expression. The judge looked very strict and had a hoarse voice, like he was a General in the army. “Hello, Mr. Thao,” he said to me. He told me to wait a little bit longer since the translator was on his way. As we waited, he began to talk to me about my occupation. I replied to him in a polite tone that I worked with a youth media group called The kNOw. As we began to converse, I began to become more comfortable with him.

I thought to myself that maybe judges aren’t that bad after all. Shortly after, he asked for my opinion about the new President Barack Obama. I told him how I felt, and realized this judge didn’t take me for a fool. From this experience, I got to learn more about the judge and realized that it was almost like fate brought us together. He was really an awesome person. He wasn’t anything like Judge Judy.

He told me that he sees drunk driving to be a major issue among many teens, and he recommended I write an article or make a movie regarding the dangers of drinking and driving.

The kNOw Youth Media
The kNOw works to support and equip young people with the journalism and advocacy skills they need to tell their stories and the stories of their communities.

In 2006, over 25 youth began participating in weekly after-school writing workshops where they congregated in the hallway of a two-story building in West Fresno and learned the essentials of creating media and telling their stories. The group evolved over the next five years and is now proudly recognized as The kNOw Youth Media.

Through our program, we create opportunities for our youth participants, who in turn create long-term positive change in their communities. Our approach weaves youth development and youth media innovation to produce our biannual youth publication, multimedia projects, and community forums.

The kNOw began as a project of New America Media, which was the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations. In 2018 The kNOw became a project of Youth Leadership Institute.

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