Founder Jill Gurr felt a need to make a difference in the world. In 1994, she began a Screenwriting Workshop at Optimist Youth Homes, a boys’ detention center in Eagle Rock, CA. She spent several months writing a screenplay with a group of these kids who were incarcerated for a variety of crimes. After the workshop, Jill discovered that many of the boys who were illiterate had learned how to read and write through her program, while others wanted to go back to school or enter college. One tough gang leader even had tattoos removed. Seeing the incredible impact of this program, Jill initiated a second Screenwriting Workshop at a coed detention facility and saw the same results.
Jill shared her experience with an associate, Erika Clark, and realized that there were probably many other people that wanted to make a difference by mentoring these kids. She thought she could help others find youth to mentor so that they could reach more young people. Erika called her the following week to report that Leslie Stevens, her producing professor at the American Film Institute, was so impressed by Jill’s idea and passion to help these high-risk youth that he was giving her a $5,000 donation to start a nonprofit organization.
The organization, initially named Write Now!, was founded in 1996 with the mission to teach literacy through different forms of creative writing. Soon after, it became apparent that many of these kids preferred other forms of creativity, such as music and art. In 1998, the organization’s official name was changed to Create Now and we have been helping thousands of troubled youth ever since.