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off/page project mission statement

The Off/Page Project combines the  analytical lens of The Center for Investigative Reporting with the groundbreaking storytelling of the literary non-profit Youth Speaks. Living at the intersection of youth voice and civic engagement, the Off/Page Project provides a multimedia platform for young people to investigate the issues and stories that would otherwise be silenced.

An unprecedented collaboration between poets and investigative journalists, the Off/Page Project is pushing the boundaries of 21st century American storytelling, and creating a nexus point for poets to report their stories. Whether the facts are found in CIR’s reporting or the primary text of Youth Speaks’ poets, the story is ours to tell.

The Off/Page Project aims to provide young people the tools and platform to:

  • PUSH the boundaries of 21st century American storytelling with youth at the core of the conversation.
  • RECOGNIZE the life experiences of Youth Speaks poets by supporting their stories with fact-based reporting.
  • ACTIVATE Youth Speaks’ national Brave New Voices network, alongside CIR’s reporters and media partners, to address the issues most affecting young people nationwide.
  • ELEVATE young voices and reporters’ stories through sourced storytelling to create a national youth dialogue, holding accountable those in power.
  • ENGAGE AND IMPACT a new generation with the strong principles, ethics and values of comprehensive investigative journalism to demand accountability from those in power, uncover injustices, and work towards policy changes on the issues most critical to them.



José Vadi is a writer, performer and educator living in Oakland, California. Since the age of 19, José has served as a poet mentor for Youth Speaks, the nation’s leading literary nonprofit. A two-time National Poetry Slam champion, José has coached several college and youth slam poetry teams to national competitions, including the 2008 and 2010 Bay Area Youth Speaks teams featured in the HBO documentary series Brave New Voices. He was the recipient of the San Francisco Foundation’s Shenson Performing Arts Award for his debut play, A Eulogy for Threeproduced at Intersection for the Arts under the curation of Marc Bamuthi-Joseph’s Living Word Festival. Since 2010, José has served as the editor and curriculum developer of The Bigger Picture, an anti-diabetes multimedia campaign sponsored by UC San Francisco’s Center for Vulnerable Populations. Jose has performed and taught at colleges and detention facilities throughout the country, including Colby College, the University of Georgia at Athens, UC Berkeley, George Washington University, and San Quentin Penitentiary. Jose recently completed his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Non-Fiction at Mills College and is currently working on The Off/Page Project, a new collaborative project between Youth Speaks and The Center for Investigative Reporting.

Joshua Merchant is a writer, activist and native of East Oakland. Combining a masterful eye for detail, startling vulnerability, and unflinching courage, Joshua explores queer issues, black identity and the complexities of their intersection. In 2011, he won the title of Youth Speaks champion and represented the Bay Area at Brave New Voices. Later that year, he became the Berkeley Slam’s youngest Individual World Poetry Slam representative. He represented for the Golden State Slam’s first venues in the 2012 National Poetry Slam. Joshua is currently preparing his debut book to be published by Youth Speaks’ First Word Press this year.

Monica Mendoza is a 19-year-old poet and proud daughter of immigrant parents. An Oakland native, Monica has been involved with Youth Speaks since 2010. Monica has performed at Youth Speak’s annual Bringing the Noise for Martin Luther King Jr event at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. She has been a finalist of both the Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam and Unified District Poetry Slams in 2012 and 2011, respectively. Monica is currently a second-year college student pursuing her undergraduate degree in women’s studies.



For all inquiries, contact Off/Page project director José Vadi.