At Bresee Youth Design, kids try to make their mark in the business world instead of on walls, signs or buses.
Established last month as a project of the Bresee Youth Center, the new desktop publishing service allows youths to channel their creative talents into a range of design, layout and paste-up, typesetting and printing services for flyers, brochures, business cards, posters, resumes, stationery and more.
"We offer concept-to-completion service," said Jeff Carr, the youth center's director.
Although few of the young employees were chronic taggers, they serve as role models for other youths who might consider trading their spray cans for a keyboard, Carr said.
Otto Perez, the 15-year-old student team leader, said the computer business is a positive way to get attention: "This will probably change some people around. (Graphic design) is like tagging--but you get paid for it."
For the first 10 youths who launched the operation, Bresee Youth Design is strictly business.
"We did the research and checked out the prices around town and we think we'll be competitive," Carr said. "Our motto is 'Good kids, good service, good prices.' "
The design team has state-of-the-art equipment thanks to a grant from the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation. The youth center also has a fully equipped computer lab funded by grants from the Whitecap Foundation and the city of Los Angeles. Graphic designers from Walt Disney Imagineering volunteer their time to offer students tips on computer techniques and, at the end of the training course, a tour of the Disney facilities.
"Kids who can develop these skills will be marketable for all kinds of jobs," Carr said. Jobs that require computer skills "are the wave of the future."
After producing a slick promotional brochure to advertise its services, the Bresee Youth Design team has moved on to its first orders: six in-house projects for the P. F. Bresee Foundation, the First Church of the Nazarene, which houses the youth center, and its school.
The next marketing phases include spreading the word among neighborhood churches and organizations that work with the Bresee Foundation, and then training a sales team to call on local businesses.
The employees earn $6 an hour and charge an hourly rate for their services.
The youth center at 3401 3rd St. offers academic assistance and other activities. Youths who drop in--about 400 did last year--can take computer classes. The current design team members are regulars at the lab; future employees will be selected from the training classes.
Perez, a sophomore at Belmont High School and a muralist, said he hopes his training will help him find a good job after he graduates. But he won't forget his early influences.
"I find my ideas out there on the street and then I change them around to make up my own designs," Perez said of his computer-generated work. "Another one of our mottoes is 'Youth Making Their Mark.' We're trying to show our good qualities, and we want people to realize what we are."
Information: (213) 387-2822.