Getting Violent for Scholarships: How Pomona’s Hardcore Punk Scene Created a DIY Scholarship Program
Mosh For Youth is a DIY organization that organizes hardcore shows to help students in East L.A. and Pomona pay for college via slam dancing. During its first year, they raised $3,500 for two students at UCLA and Cal Poly Pomona.
Mosh For Youth is a DIY organization producing hardcore shows to help students in East L.A. and Pomona pay for college via slam dancing. The idea was born out of boredom in September 2021.
“I wanted to combine the two things that I have been passionate about for a very long time," says founder and local Pomona punk lifer, Victor Campos. "One is hardcore music. And two is education."
Hardcore shows have a distinct energy to them created by their mosh pits. The physical, rough dance sequences exist within the culture of fast, aggressive music. They are shaped by a Charleston-like foot movement to the rhythms of aggressive guitar riffs and raw vocals. Individuals swing their hands side-to-side, oftentimes whirling them around like a windmill, as well. The intention isn't necessarily to give someone a black eye, though it does happen. Mosh pits are intimidating. Any accidental punch landed can be taken out of context, causing tension between individuals.
“The shows that I had, there were always fights," explains Campos. "It's very violent music. There was always tension between people and just anger. There are people that had tension with me, but they would come to my shows…. and try to pick fights.”
In the controlled chaos of all of that, Campos somehow thought there was potential in harboring that aggression into raising money for a DIY scholarship system born out of Pomona, California's punk scene.
Campos' coming-of-age story was ignited by his passion for the booming hardcore punk scene in his hometown. After starting a band with his friends as an eighth grader called “The Freshmen,” music became a big part of his life. As his teenage years progressed, so did his angst, while the local punk scene evolved into a more aggressive genre: hardcore.
Around 2005, the youth of Pomona started bonding over the genre, and many bands began to form. House shows became a staple of the scene.
Luckee Ngin, a native of Pomona, recalls basking in the ambiance of his city's scene, “The Pomona hardcore scene means so much to me. It has helped shape who I am as a person, given me life-long friendships, provided a space of belonging, helped me better understand myself and process teenage angst during dark times.”
As the years went by, the teenagers who comprised The Freshmen became Pomona Unified School District graduates, and Campos went into education. It started after high school, when he became a tutor for an after-school program offered by the district called "Upward Bound." Developing his love for education, he became a teacher in East L.A. in 2017.
While stuck in traffic on his way home from work, still feeling the good vibrations from teaching and love for his students, Campos got the idea of organizing shows for scholarships.
Since then, Campos has organized two festival-like fundraisers every year where 100% of the proceeds go to two students’ college funds, one from his hometown and the other from East L.A., where he first started teaching. During its first year, Mosh For Youth raised $3,500 for two students who were UCLA and Cal Poly Pomona-bound.
Everyone pitches in. A ticket goes for about $20 per person. Guests at the shows release their angst in the pit while raising money for future generations. Applications for the next round of scholarships open in May.
“The environment [at Mosh For Youth’s shows] is nostalgic, fun, and full of great energy," says Rico Ledesma, an active member of the Pomona scene since the beginning. "No matter how rowdy the crowd and pit gets, everyone is there for one reason and that’s to help out with some kids' futures."
Now punks are coming to Campos’ shows to support his cause instead of trying to pick fights with him.
“People know that they are there for something greater than just going to a show,” states Campos.
After the first year of Mosh For Youth's existence, Campos learned to improve the experience. He no longer works on his own. Luckee runs social media marketing for the organization.
“It's important for me to work with an org like MFY because I understand how difficult it is to go to college and not have financial resources and mentors,” Luckee says.
As a result of their social media campaign, Victor is being approached by several bands who want to join the community. The hardcore scene’s communal mentality has replaced the anger and tension that surged in the teenage years. It is a new, positive era for the hardcore scene.
When discussing their next show, Campos' grin grew immensely. The next one will be on June 16th at L.A.’s hardcore mecca, the stage formerly known as Aladdin Jr. and now known as The Haven. Mosh For Youth is still in its infant years. At just two years old now, it has landed its founder's dream venue.
“[Aladdin Jr.] was a staple for Los Angeles hardcore and southern California hardcore,” Campos joyfully explains.
With a new focus on partnering with venues around Pomona for smaller four-band shows, to avoid the excruciating work of organizing a festival, the MFY team dreams of expanding its operations and helping students in various locations. Their goal is to create more scholarships by raising funds through hosting more shows throughout the school year in different cities.
Victor doesn’t just want to grow Mosh For Youth for feel-good clout. Everything MFY does is done with future generations in mind. His intentions to expand to surrounding cities are mission-focused and won't happen unless the values of the people that want to collaborate with him align with the mission of his organization.
If you'd like to support June 16th at the Haven, tickets go on sale at the end of April. For information on their shows and scholarships, follow their socials: @moshforyouth on Instagramand Twitter. You can also make a donation direct to their gofundme.