On Thursday, September 29, the Long Beach Post hosted an event to honor young people from around the city who are doing great things to better their community and beyond. Out of hundreds of nominations from our readers, judges chose 40 winners, representing a range of professions and activism. The Postwill be profiling each honoree in the coming days.
“Tenacious” was the word used to describe Katie Rispoli Keaotamai, 27, founder and executive director of We Are the Next, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to historic preservation as well as facilitating programs for youth, which celebrated it’s two-year anniversary in July.
“Because we're still getting the word out about our efforts [...] we need to be working every day to raise awareness and explore new possibilities for projects throughout the greater Long Beach area,” said Keaotamai. “Needless to say, it can be a little draining. It's recognition like being put on the Long Beach Post's 40 Under 40 list that renews my motivation and helps me feel like our work is being welcomed and supported as we work to grow and inspire more communities to take ownership [of] the places they live their lives in.”
In August, We Are the Next completed the much-needed renovation of the historic Koffee Pot Cafe on Fourth Street. The nonprofit is also responsible for relocating the original Taco Bell and the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot building, built in 1907, which was tragically destroyed by a fire last month.
Looking forward, Keaotamai’s organization is getting ready to begin a series of workshops with over 100 Long Beach high school students, a partnership between We Are the Next and Long Beach Heritage, funded largely by a Knight Foundation grant. Over 100 youth will be brought to the Bembridge House to help management discover new ways to tell its history, in an effort to interest a 21st-century demographic, she said.
“I would really like to emphasize that We Are the Next is not just an organization that focuses on historic places,” said Keaotamai. “We work to tell the stories of all places that our communities consider valuable, whether they're historic or not. Our goal is to help existing residents of our neighborhoods take pride in where they live and feel inclined to do what they can, no matter how small, to make their city better.”