In 1994, produced writer Jill Gurr taught a screenwriting workshop at Optimist Youth Homes, a boys’ detention center in Highland Park, CA where she co-wrote a script with a group of incarcerated teenage boys.

Jill discovered that many of these kids 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 gang leader even had tattoos removed from his neck and hands.

pImpressed by Jill’s idea and passion to help these high-risk youth, Leslie Stevens, a producing professor at the American Film Institute donated $5,000 to start a nonprofit organization so more people could help make a difference by mentoring these kids.

The organization, initially named Write Now!, was founded in 1996 with the mission to teach literacy through different forms of creative writing. In 1998, the organization’s name was changed to Create Now, to incorporate other forms of creativity, such as music, dance and art, and we have been helping thousands of youth ever since.