In 1994, writer Jill Gurr taught a Screenwriting workshop at Optimist Youth Homes, a boys’ detention center in Eagle Rock, CA where she co-wrote a script with a group of incarcerated teens. Jill discovered that many of these boys were illiterate, but when her program ended, they had learned how to read and write, 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, she initiated a second Screenwriting workshop at a co-ed detention facility and got the same results.
Jill shared her experience with an associate, Erika Clark, and realized that there were probably other people who wanted to make a difference by mentoring these kids. 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 donating $5,000 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. However, it became apparent that many of these kids preferred other forms of creativity, such as music and art. In 1998, the organization’s name was changed to Create Now, and we have been helping thousands of troubled youth ever since.