For her bat mitzvah project, Jenna Lizerbram began writing to a young boy stricken with leprosy at the Rising Star Outreach program in India.
Through her letters and sponsorship, Lizerbram, 17, “saw the impact that I had on him, and I wanted to make more of a difference.”
Along with her brother, Noah, 19, she came up with the idea of holding benefit concerts to raise money for music programs to help underprivileged children in San Diego, India and the Congo. Since 2010, YouthJamz, “youth helping youth through music,” has held four concerts, raised $16,000 and reached 900 children with musical instruments, lessons and education.
Now a senior at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad (north San Diego County), Lizerbram traveled to Chennai, India, with her family last summer to visit one of the music programs she helped to start. This summer she plans to travel to the Congo to help launch a music program for children affected by war and conflict in the region.
“Music has an incredible therapeutic quality,” said Lizerbram, who plays piano, guitar and ukulele. “We get to combine our two passions: music and philanthropy.”
For her work with YouthJamz, Lizerbram recently received the Peter Chortek Leadership Award, which recognizes San Diego Jewish high school students who demonstrate excellence in community service and leadership.
“Seeing how happy the kids were from learning just one song that we taught them, that inspired me to go on,” she said.
While Lizerbram may pack up many of her high school memories as she heads off to college in the fall, YouthJamz will come with her. As her brother has done at UCLA, she said, “I’m going to start a club and take it to my college campus.”
Lizerbram spoke to JTA about her biggest influences, where she’d like to travel next and more.
JTA: Who or what have been the biggest influences in your life?
Jenna Lizerbram: My parents, definitely. They got me started and supported me. And the kids that I help, that’s the most rewarding experiences.
JTA: If you could have lunch or coffee with anyone and tell him or her about YouthJamz, who would it be?
JL: Shakira, I love her! She’s into what I’m doing. Maybe she could teach me a dance that I could teach the kids in Africa.
JTA: What would like to be doing professionally in perhaps five or 10 years?
JL: I’m starting to figure that out now, but something that involves traveling and philanthropy.
JTA: What sort of things do you like to do to have fun?
JL: I go to a lot of concerts. I go to the beach, hang out with my friends, go on hikes. I’m a very outdoorsy person.