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The city of Half Moon Bay is currently going through a process to identify and prioritize the community’s needs.  On March 3rd, 2019, the city council held a listening session to make sure that all voices were heard, including Spanish speakers and the Latinx community. I had been informed about this event a couple days before. It seemed interesting because I would have the opportunity to hear how city council can help us make this community better by working on what our community thinks we need to add, remove, or fix.

I wasn’t really aware of what was going to happen. I was expecting the city council members to speak instead of us. But once the listening session began I understood that they held this event to hear what the community has to say. But due to the fact that a birthday celebration for the priest was being held, only 9 people showed up. Those 9 people were made up of a woman from the school board, 3 residents of Half Moon Bay, and 5 people from the housing and transportation committee. This committee is part of a larger group of youth leaders that are involved in YLI programming at Half Moon Bay High School. The committee focuses on advocating for affordable housing and transit-oriented development in the community.

The room was pretty quiet, but I could feel all the positivity in the room. Whenever someone spoke, all the attention was given to them and everyone was respectful towards the opinions and experiences that they were sharing, which made it easier for me to speak. Like the others who had talked before, I spoke about the problem we have here with affordable housing by sharing how it has impacted my life.

What I liked the most about it was that throughout the whole listening session the city council members were very focused on what we had to say and gave their input on the topic someone spoke of. While listening to their feedback, I learned that there are many things you can and can’t do on your own property. One of those thing being that if the owner of a piece of land wants to build homes for their workers, a part of that land would have to be open for the community to rent and the rest would be specifically for the workers and their families.

After the listening session, I felt like our voices were actually being heard and that our opinions matter. Now that I know what goes on during the listening sessions, I will continue attending whenever possible. Not only will I continue attending these listening sessions but I will also continue working with the housing and transportation committee to help our community. Overall, it was a very interesting experience and I am glad I decided to attend because now I have a better idea of what the city council does for our community. I hope to attend and get more people involved, especially the Latinx community!

The city of Half Moon Bay will be hosting one last Priority Setting/Strategic Planning Workshop on Tuesday, March 26, 2 – 6 pm at the Adcock Community Center. The housing and transportation committee is planning on being there – come out and join us!! You can find information about the event on our website, and on the City of Half Moon Bay’s website.

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On Friday, February 22, We’Ced Youth Media celebrated its seventh print publication in downtown Merced. Among those present was Joshua Semerjian, a PhD student from UC Merced who has been collaborating with We’Ced for the past year. Joshua and We’Ced have been building a strong mutually rewarding partnership to support the youth reporters in their personal and professional growth, and on the night of the publication party, Joshua had this to share:

Before I get to the importance of tonight’s gathering, I must first thank the Henry Luce Foundation for a fellowship that was awarded to me through the Resource Center for Community Engaged Scholarship at the University of California, Merced. Because of their support of my work, I have been able to team up with We’Ced on projects that serve the values and interests of the youth reporters.

Since coming to We’Ced I have often mused what life in Merced would be like if they didn’t have a community support network like Youth Leadership Institute and We’Ced Youth Media. For We’Ced reporters, I can tell this is a place for learning and healing, for intellectual and personal growth. Those are all things young people need – whole person education, and whole person care. Moreover, we must see that care and education are actually not separate things – you can’t achieve one without the other.

It’s also crucial that we understand how young people see the world around them. Their visions make it possible for the community to create pathways and expand horizons that meet them on their terms. I believe in the power of sharing our hearts and our stories, and youth-serving community organizations make space for this kind of group- and self-care.

I firmly hold that we must seek ways to connect all young people’s personal experiences and social-emotional expressions with educational practices. Public education has come a long way, but it has not gone far enough to serve the diversity of experiences and conditions young people are caught up in. That’s why I take the position that wherever there is a youth-serving organization there ought to be a holistic curriculum that teaches the wonders and the worries of human social life. This is about mindfulness of the heart, mind, body, and spirit that connects with real-world experiences and life conditions.

As I see it, We’Ced reporters are doing the kind of community research that is crucial for social and political awareness as well as social-emotional connection and care. We’Ced facilitates the intellectual engagement and the critical consciousness for the youth reporters, but I don’t think that is enough. What I see missing is the rally of the whole community behind the efforts of youth-serving organizations. This is hard work and it is demanded of all of us. Entire communities must come together across all divides to uplift all of the youth because, as my own research reveals, it still takes a village to raise a child.

Congratulations We’Cedians!

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Youth Leadership Institute Blog by Mary Schindler - 3w ago

The Eastern Coachella Valley is a beautiful community, filled with deep and rich culture that is heavily influenced by Mexico. When you walk into the town, you are greeted by little mom and pop shops that play uplifting music, people talking and laughing on the sidewalks, and traditions that are what make the Eastern Coachella Valley an unforgettable place. I moved to this valley from Bakersfield California at about 8 or 9 years old, and fell in love with the energy that came from the palm trees that seemed to suck me in and embrace me. Believe it or not, this place was far more magical than Disneyland could ever be. After a few short months and finally adjusting to the area, something inside of me had changed. I would walk around places with my mother and little brother, and couldn’t help but feel that something was very off. I began to pay attention to more interactions I would have with community members, and discovered that my appearance was causing this feeling.

I had no idea that being born to a Mexican Mother and a Black father would make my experience in the valley one that would teach me a lot about myself, and how I would see the world. But it did. I remember being enrolled in elementary school, and how accepting and welcoming the other students were of my differences. They never made me feel weird or bad, they just simply accepted me for me. It wasn’t until middle school that I was met with issues about my race.

The two year transition between elementary school and high school was an absolute nightmare. I had very few friends because my hair wasn’t like everyone else’s, and I was very dark compared to everyone else. I spent a majority of the time either by myself, or talking to the women on yard duty because making friends was something really hard to do. If it weren’t for my best friend Ruby, I don’t know how I would have made it through. During class, students would try to throw things in my hair, avoid interacting with me, and even ask me questions like “Why are you offended when people say ‘nigger’? It shouldn’t matter what people say.”

One story that sticks with me was during a class period when my friend and I were listening to a song in spanish. I explained how it had been one of my favorite songs, and another girl said “You don’t know that song, stop lying.” Not sure if she was joking or not, it still stood out in my mind that my Mexican identity was up to question simply because of the difference in my appearance. Much of the time, I had no one come to my defense when I tried to stand up for myself and explain that I was indeed Mexican. The idea that a person could be more than one race was absolutely taboo, and nonexistent. I remember coming home from school trying to hold back tears because of how hurtful it was to experience that. I never knew how to explain this to my parents, so I kept it to myself. After that experience, I felt a sense of resentment toward this community, and wanted to completely disconnect myself from it. At a young age, I had experienced a prejudice and was a victim of colorism.

Within the Eastern Coachella Valley and similar to other Latinx communities there is a sense eliteness in terms of those who are lighter skinned, compared to those who are darker. On every novela or news station, the people have light skin, colored eyes, and blonde hair. Very rarely do you see a dark person, unless they are playing a maid, a criminal, or they are the butt of a joke. Dark skin is associated with being ugly, not intelligent, and violent; and this greatly affects darker skinned Mexicans. And being black is even worse. I’m pretty sure we all have that one family member that always made remarks about people being dark, or they completely hated black folks as a whole. This isn’t new. And as a young child growing up, it made no sense to me that the individuals from my own community couldn’t accept me or believe my race SIMPLY because of the color of my skin. It didn’t matter if I knew Spanish or not, the simple fact that I didn’t look “Mexican” was enough for individuals to look down upon me and treat me as a lower-class citizen. And so for a long time, I denied the Mexican part of myself, because acceptance was something I felt I could never get. As a result, I claimed my identity as a Black woman, and stuck with it. Despite being raised with my Mexican cousins, listening to music in Spanish, and speaking Spanish, I was Black when I left my house.

When I got to high school, I took on my identity as a Black Woman and completely rolled with it. For all four years, I wouldn’t speak in Spanish in class, I wouldn’t dance along to music in Spanish, and I would hold my breath during funny jokes being told in Spanish (I didn’t want to give myself away). Because I decided that I would be confident in my Black identity, I had made many friendships that would last a lifetime. I was okay with this for a little while, but eventually, I began to feel a sense of incompleteness. It didn’t seem right that I was only accepting one side of myself.

So when I graduated high school, it was time for me to make one more change. When I got accepted into college, I made a promise to myself that I was not going to hide my Mexican side. I joined latinx clubs, attended latinx events, and even spoke Spanish (which was something that I was completely afraid to do).  I would no longer hold back or hide who I was, because I knew that the person I wanted to be could never exist if I kept hiding. And at the end of the day, it didn’t matter if people believed I was Black and Mexican or not, because my truth was worth living in. And I am proud to say that I am both Black and Mexican, I love both of my cultures, and nothing will stop me from living the honest truth that God has so blessed me with.

After graduating with two degrees in theatre and dance, the views of myself and the Eastern Coachella Valley had changed, so coming back to this area was a very different experience. I didn’t feel nervous about going to certain places, and I am very open about correcting behavior if I need to. Fortunately, I haven’t had to do that very much because I do believe that there is a progression that is happening within this valley. The younger generation is becoming much more accepting of other identities, and they are more open to addressing problematic thoughts and ideals that they’re family members may try to put on them. I am proud to say that there are more advocates for change, and that there is an acknowledgement of colorism and prejudiced ways of thinking. Could there be more changes? Absolutely. But I am proud to see the progress that is being made every day.

If I could go back and tell young Ayanna anything, I would tell her that she is absolutely beautiful, intelligent, and she doesn’t need to be afraid. That she was fiercely and beautifully made, and that her culture was something she always needed to hang on to. She did not have to hide from anyone, because the world needed to see her live in her truth. And for anyone else that may be dealing with this, it is important to remember that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being different. In fact, if anything, differences are what make a picture unique.  I believe this generation will be the change that we all desperately need to continue to break toxic ways of thinking, while still holding on the beautiful culture and place that is what makes up the Eastern Coachella Valley.

Author Bio:

Ayanna: a beautiful flower (Swahili). Ayanna Wilson was raised most of her life in the Coachella Valley. She grew up very closely with her family members who migrated to the United States from Guadalajara, Jalisco. After attending Coachella Valley High School, she went on to pursue higher education. Ayanna studied for five years to obtain both a Theatre and Dance degree from Humboldt State University. She hopes to continue performing and provide performing opportunities for the youth in the Coachella Valley. She is proud to be a bi-racial Black and Mexican woman, and she hopes to bring awareness about the Black experience to the ECV.

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My name is José Rubén Diaz Junior and I’m an illustrator for the kNOw Youth Media in Fresno, CA. I’ve been illustrating for practically all of my life and I have to give credit to Art Attack, a show I remember watching as a kid, for inspiring me. On the show they would demonstrate little crafts you could do at home and I remember feeling so inspired by them.

As I got older, I started noticing that my illustrations brought happiness and smiles to whoever saw them and that has been my motivation ever since. Knowing that my illustrations can bring joy to someone is the greatest feeling in the world. And now that I’m an illustrator at The kNOw, I was able to use that for Black History Month.

As you probably know, February is Black History Month, a month where famous and influential black members of society are recognized and celebrated. Back in January, Kody, our Program Manager with The kNOw, asked me if I would be interested in doing illustrations that celebrate famous and less well-known leaders in the African American community for Black History Month. I gladly accepted, and I’m glad I did.

Upon receiving the list of people to draw, I did immediately recognized some very well-known people like Barack Obama, Oprah and Jackie Robinson. But there were some names I had never heard of and I was curious to find out more about them. And I have to say, I’m so glad I did. People like George Washington Carver, who did so much in the field of agriculture even though he was born into slavery, showed me a side of history I never knew and I gained a new respect for all of these people I had never heard of before.

In terms of actually creating the illustrations, it’s pretty simple. First, I would look at the reference images that Kody had sent to me and picked one to base my illustration on. I usually go for the clearest one because I like to look at details and some of that can be lost if I use a blurry image.

Second, I make sure that the person’s face is clearly visible, because that is most important for the image I create. Their face. I also use the other images so that I can see what styles of hair and clothing they have. Using those images, I draw clothing that would fit their style and give them a hairstyle I think they would be most likely to have.

Lastly comes the coloring, which isn’t as hard as one might think. It’s really the shading/highlights which can be hard because you don’t want to over do any of them, you want to have the shade in the right place and matching highlights in the other parts. Once that’s done I try to give them a background color that will make then stand out, then I write their name and the years that they lived/were born.

In my case, it isn’t as hard for me to create these because I draw them digitally, which gives me access to tools that make it easier and time-saving.

One thing that I tried to do for each illustration was to pick one thing from their lives that really made them stand out and include that in my illustrations. For example, for the image of Charles Drew that I created, I included blood cells for his background because in his life, he made huge contributions to society by creating new methods of blood transfusions.

In general, I really enjoying illustrating people who contributed so much to society despite being in a society that treat them so poorly and looks down on them. Like I mentioned above, George Washington Carver is someone who I really came to admire as I read about his life. He was born a slave, then became free and went to on study agriculture. Eventually he went on to teach farmers about crop rotation so they did not destroy their soil and to create over 300 uses for the peanut. He did all of this knowing that the world around him didn’t respect him because of the color of his skin. His life teaches us so much about courage and about perseverance.

Now that the month of February is over, I have to say that I am very happy that I agreed to do this project. If I hadn’t, I honestly would not have learned about so many of these people who contributed so much to society. They did so much even though society didn’t give them any recognition or respect because of the color of their skin – but they never let that stop them. They had so much courage and I’m happy that I did this and showed our community everything they did for us. If I asked again to do this project again, I would gladly say yes.

Here are some of the other images I created this month:
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When I was 18, I moved to San Francisco in order to pursue higher education in psychology. Living in a big city as a young adult who is new to adulthood, you become aware of issues that never once crossed your mind as a child. I quickly became aware of the economic disparity that affects SF natives due to big corporations targeting them.

One of the biggest issues is that big tobacco specifically targets low-income, minorities, and young people. As someone who identifies with all three, I can’t help but be outraged by the direct targeting of high-risk people to become life-long addicts that can lead to a multitude of illnesses, including death. Big tobacco has gotten away with this due to the lack of regulations and laws, they continue to find loopholes, but enough is enough. We can not continue the normalization of the addiction of tobacco due to the government prioritizing taxation over its own citizens.

Fighting for tobacco prevention for me is crucial because young kids of color deserve better than this, they don’t need any more direct targeting by big corporations, and most important they do not need tobacco or any tobacco-related products, as a matter of fact. Which is why I continue to fight for tobacco prevention in order to help the next generation blossom without the dependency on costly and deadly tobacco.

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Teachers are the heart of our communities, and right now, the teachers of Oakland are fighting with all their hearts simply to do the job they love – to nurture, educate, and grow our children.

Here’s how you can support our brave teachers and students as they push forward on their historic strike to save our public schools:

  • Join us on the picket line!! YLI staff will be standing with teachers on Monday from 7am-10am – check out this strike site map for a location near you. The strike will likely continue through the week, so if you can’t make Monday, come out another day!
  • Donate to the Teachers’ Strike Fund: https://www.gofundme.com/striking-oakland-teachers
  • Donate to Bread for Ed to feed students and teachers: https://donorbox.org/breadfored
  • Share this post on your social media channels and help us get the word out!

Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy – FAME is also mobilizing faith leaders and congregations to provide material support to teachers and families, and to activate faith leaders to join the picket lines. To get involved in our interfaith efforts to support the strike, contact Kristi Laughlin, kristi@workingeastbay.org.

Public education is under attack in Oakland and across the country. Our schools are underfunded and overcrowded, and our teachers are so underpaid they can no longer afford to live in the Bay Area. The Oakland Unified School District is threatening to close 24 neighborhood schools, all of which are in the flatlands of East and West Oakland.

Left with no other option, Oakland’s teachers are #StrikeReady. They are demanding:

  • Smaller class sizes⠀
  • More student support and services
  • A living wage⠀
  • To keep our neighborhood schools open⠀

What’s happening in Oakland is part of a wave of teachers’ strikes that have riveted the nation. Oakland’s teachers are joining their counterparts in Los Angeles, Denver and across the country who are standing up and fighting for our future.

Let’s show them how much we love and need them!

#Unite4OaklandKids

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Yammilette G. Rodriguez, 2019 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award - YouTube

On February 11th it was announced that Central Valley Senior Director of Programs Yammilette  Rodriguez was awarded the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award. These awards, “recognize and support individuals who are advancing innovative and effective solutions to significant state issues” and provide a $250,000 investment in the work. Yami has been with YLI for nearly 10 years now, overseeing offices in Fresno and Merced, as well as programming in Orange Cove, Madera, Kerman, Reedley, Selma, and more. With 13 youth programs reaching over 250 youth in an average week, the Central Valley work is grounded in Yami’s dynamic leadership style and tireless efforts to improve the lives of young people. We asked Yami to reflect on what this award means to her.

This award would not be possible without the hard work and sacrifice that my immigrant parents have made for me. My story is like that of so many of the young people in our programs: our families and communities have shaped and supported us. This accomplishment is for my parents.

It’s also for my daughters. I’m lucky that in my everyday work I get to see young people’s energy and passion, skill and hard work. Because of this I have hope that all the talent and insight that my daughters have will find opportunity to take root in Fresno and create a Fresno where all voices are heard and everyone has a chance to thrive.

This award is great because it will allow me to continue the work that I believe in so deeply: mentoring young people in the Central Valley to become leaders that change our community for the better. I was lucky to be mentored by women in my life who have shaped me to be who I am today and I want to continue to pass that on.

It’s time that Fresno, the Central Valley and all of California include youth voice in all our discussions to determine solutions to the challenges we face. Thanks to the James Irvine Foundation for investing in youth voice so that everyone is heard in creating our shared future.

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On Saturday, the Merced Sun-Star delivered copies of Walking our Paths to communities across the county. This is We’Ced Youth Media’s 8th such publication, featuring the stories of young people, but with a very special twist. The entire publication was produced by the young people themselves.

“This kind of role where I had more of a hands-on type of position, this was a first time for me,” said Victor Seguin. He was one of handful of veteran youth reporters who took charge of producing the publication this year. “Before, I just turned in a story and everyone else would do everything behind the scenes and we’d just see the final product. For this one, I really got to be the person behind the scenes.”

A key responsibility was creating the layout. There is an art and a science to this. The way images and text are organized on page can deeply impact a reader’s experience — and there is a lot to consider. Layla Ornelas, another lead designer, explains: “We needed to be sure that everyone could read the text, and that it would be easy on the eye. Then there was placing the photos — making sure there wasn’t a gap between image and text, and that people wouldn’t get mixed up on where to read next. Then there was the color scheme, the filters, the captions below each photo.” A balance had to be struck between staying true to the vision of each contributor and doing what worked. “The most time-consuming part was working out the templates for both English and Spanish,” said Layla. “Words in different languages take up different amounts space, which changes the layout.”

Layla’s photo is featured on the cover. “Whenever I take pictures, I try to do something different: different places, different angles, a different color scheme. I don’t like to use models — I want someone who has actually experienced what I’m trying to capture, so I can get the most raw emotion. For this shot, I literally asked people to swing their feet so I could get the motion of it.”

Creating a publication that looks compelling is the first step in getting readers to open its pages and read. And getting these stories into the hands of other young people in the community is critical. Many of the stories share the personal experiences of youth in the community, and dive deep on issues like immigration, alcoholism, and homelessness. “There are probably hundreds of kids in Merced who deal with homelessness but none of them really want to talk about it with their friends,” said Victor. “If there’s a person at We’Ced who is dealing with homelessness, they can write about it and show, ‘Hey, you don’t have to be shy or embarrassed about the fact that your homeless. There are other people dealing with it. Here’s how I dealt with it. Maybe my experience can help you.’ That’s how all of us think: that our stories will have an impact on someone’s life.”

But the publication is not just for young people. At the heart of We’Ced’s work is changing the narrative about young people. Reading these stories gives adults a chance to [see] young people in a different light — to understand the challenges they face, as well as the brilliance and resourcefulness of their perspectives and solutions. “We want them to see that we aren’t just a bunch of teenagers and young adults who want to be in gangs, who don’t want to do anything with life,” said Victor. “We have a story of our own and that we want to be involved in our community. We’re not just a bunch of future convicts. We’re writers and we’re future leaders.”

Now that the publication is on the verge of being released, Layla feels relief and excitement. The production process was long and tedious, but she’s happy with how it came out: “A lot of the teachers at my school know I’m a reporter, and they’re really looking forward to seeing it.”

For Victor, this is just the beginning. Inspired by his work at We’Ced, he is majoring in English at Merced Community College in hopes of one day becoming a journalist: “I had never even imagined being a journalist when I was still in high school. It wasn’t until I actually started writing articles and seeing how they impact people that I was finally like, ‘You know what, this is something I am really passionate about, so much so that I want to make a career out of it now.’

**Stay tuned!! A digital version of Walking our Paths will be made available early next week and a release party is being planned for late February. Come out and help us celebrate! More details on the way.

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Two weeks ago, YLI’s very own Loughlin Browne was recognized at the annual Heart of Marin award ceremony for her outstanding service in the community of Marin. In the following interview, she talks about her work on the Marin County Youth Commission‘s Racial Equity sub committee, which eventually landed her on the stage to accept the Volunteer of the Year award.

Why did you decide to participate in the Racial Equity sub-committee specifically?

Racial equity has always been a really important issue to me. I think especially as a white person in a society that obviously I have a lot of privilege in, it’s really important to do advocacy in the areas where you do have privilege. I do a lot of stuff with feminism and LGBT rights that impact me personally, but I wanted to do more for things where I’m not necessarily the target. I think a big part of advocacy is using the privilege and the advantages that you’re given to raise the voices of those who aren’t listened to or taken as seriously. I think a big part of it is also making sure that those voices have room – making room, giving them the microphone, and stepping aside.

It sounds like you have been involved in social justice work for some time. What stood out to you this past year with YLI? What was surprising, inspiring, or challenging?

This was a really great year for youth activism across the country with Parkland. I think youth activism is super inspiring. There are a lot of youth activists online, and that’s actually how I learned about a lot of the terminology of privilege, oppression, and target groups. I’ve talked with my family and researched online, but a lot of it was social media accounts run by teenagers and young millennials.

On the other hand, I’ve seen a lot of apathy, which was surprising in a different way. I run youth phone banks for the democratic party. We pick progressive candidates that are running close races in close elections across the country and we make calls. It can be really hard to find people who want to get involved, which can be discouraging.

What other projects have you been working on?

I have an Instagram account where I post about a bunch of current events – my opinions, explaining things like: “here’s how the wage gap is real, and here’s how it disproportionately affects women of color, disabled women – not just white, able-bodied upper middle class women.” Defining terms that people don’t understand or explaining, for example, about transgendered people, and why it’s important to use the pronouns they prefer. The questions that people have when they’re good-intentioned and want to learn. I have 850 followers on Instagram. I started about a year ago. I also do some communications for Marin Young Democrats. I’m the chief administrator for them so I run their social media – that’s an under 40 group in Marin.

How do you think adults will receive trainings from young people? Do you anticipate any challenges?

It is definitely going to be a hard line to walk. Part of it might seem inherently condescending to have a bunch of young people, 15 years olds, talking to 45, 35 year olds. A lot of people might feel uncomfortable about that, but I think we could be really impactful. I know that everyone on the commission has taken the time to put in the research and get the knowledge, I think we’d do a good job. We’re looking for connections, we spoke to our Supervisor. We’re going to find ways to partner with people so we can have the right balance of respect but also respect for ourselves.

That’s a really important part of the work that we do. No one is paying my peers to do this – it is something they are genuinely interested in. We have a lot insight because of the environments that we live in and the different ways that we grow up – we get different messages, different forms of messaging. We have a unique perspective to bring to the table especially since – I know it’s cliché, but – the youth are our future. We’re going to be the ones who are going to be voting soon and that’s going to change the demographic. We’re eventually going to be the ones who perpetuate or progress through racism and other systems of inequality. We definitely bring unique perspectives

So how did it feel to be recognized for all of the work that you’re doing?

When I was listening to all of the names, I had a lot of friends who were nominated and everyone there has done such amazing work. It was really inspiring to be in a room with so many people who, even if they weren’t nominated, had been committed to doing really good things and putting good back into the world. I was really inspired to be there with all that energy and I was really honored that I ended up receiving the award. I know a lot of other people easily could have won it as well.

Was there a specific project for which you were recognized?

It was for the work on the youth commission and some tutoring that I do. A big part of it was some of the political groups that I do. That’s one of the more unique things – I started a group of student political volunteers. We do phone banking. Even though we can’t vote, we’re still just as invested and impacted by the elections. I think getting student involvement young is really important. The youth vote is so low. It’s really disappointing, so getting people involved early on is really important to ensuring that they are life-long voters.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about the award and what it means to you?

All the people in the Youth Commission and Wendy definitely deserve a lot of recognition. I’m really excited to see what everyone does throughout their lives. To have the opportunity and resources to be able to get involved like this is a privilege. Especially when it comes to racial equity, just me being a white person talking about racism, I notice the privilege that I get personally when I’m talking about it. People say “Oh my God, that’s so sweet of you!” where as if a person of color is talking about racism, sometimes the reaction can be either that they’re being self-serving or are wanting attention. Even in those situations, I’m always going to have some sort of privilege. I hope that the work we do can make people want to get involved, want to learn, and do the right thing. Maybe they don’t know how and maybe they need a push, and I hope they can be inspired to pursue it further, self-examine outside of the trainings that we’re doing.

I’m really excited to see what happens next.

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This week we are welcoming young people and our community to join us in celebrating the opening of the new Youth Leadership Institute Eastern Coachella Valley (ECV) office. This ECV office will house our two local programs, Coachella Unincorporated and ¡Que Madre! Media Collective.

This is the first time in more than four years we will be able to welcome our community into a physical space. Without an office, Coachella Uninc., our longest running program and the first youth media program based in the ECV, had to think creatively about how we engaged and supported young people in our community. Lack of infrastructure and investment, especially for young people, is an all too common story in our rural, largely unincorporated area.

Despite the limited resources, we remained resourceful.

When there wasn’t space for us, we made our own and our community supported us every step of the way. We’ve met in parks, in family homes, in classrooms, in libraries, in panaderíes and in a coffee shop. I am eternally grateful to all the community members, educators and local partners who opened up their own space for us to meet with young people and to host media trainings.

With this new office space in Coachella, our programs will be able to partner with more young people in the ECV to uplift and amplify stories from our community. We will be able to provide a space where all young people can feel welcomed and supported.

In this new space, we will continue to lead the way in youth partnerships and ensuring that youth voice is heard. Because at our core, we believe that youth voice changes communities.

If you are in the Eastern Coachella Valley this week, please join us for this community celebration. There will be program presentations and an exciting new photography installation by Bryan Mendez, Coachella Uninc. reporter and director of Estamos Aquí: A Community Documentary.

See below for details — join us!

–written by Amber Amaya, Program Manager

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