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Press Release - Case Studies
Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA)
The Youth Build Immigrant Power (YBIP) project is a program of the AIWA which was established in 1983 to mobilize low-income Chinese and Korean immigrant women around garment industry issues. Launched in 1997, the YBIP program is made up of nearly 40 predominately female Asian youth between the ages of 14 and 20 dedicated to improving the living conditions of low-income Asian-American immigrant families. These families face a unique set of challenges that come from the experience of uprooting their lives and moving to an unfamiliar country. Language barriers, severe isolation, as well as pressure to act as language translators in adult situations, are potential roadblocks to their healthy development.
YBIP participants are active in organizational leadership, service programs, and intergenerational organizing efforts within AIWA. The YBIP program includes annual leadership development training, weekly training sessions, an internship program, and a Core Leadership program. These programs support positive youth development by incorporating training tailored to youth, individualized attention, and opportunities to apply skills and for self-reflection. When youth connect to and personalize community issues they become committed to working for change.
AIWA youth have participated in a number of campaigns to improve living and working conditions for garment workers including the Garment Worker’s Justice Campaign. When YBIP participants organized a solidarity rally in San Francisco for a Girlcott of the Donna Karan Corporation, it was a big success: Eighty people showed up for the rally, which included “Charlie’s Angels” spin-offs fighting for worker’s rights. They have leafleted garment shops in Oakland and San Francisco and are developing a campaign for health and safety in the workplace for injured garment workers.
Lessons from AIWA
Quotes from AIWA youth:
“Before I joined AIWA, I don’t really care about stuff that surrounding me. …After I joined AIWA, I realize that a lot of things going on really relate to me… It’s taught me that you should be more active about stuff surrounding you. It’s like you need to step up to do something to change something.”
“Because like three years ago, my mom, she didn’t really understand what I thinking, my thoughts. Like she always thinks, like you have nothing to do and you are bad and stuff. And after we come here she joining a union. And she is kind of looking like…the thing that I am doing is good for people and community. So she thought that I am not becoming a bad person.”
Coalition for Asian Pacific American Youth
Entirely youth-run and led, the Coalition for Asian Pacific American Youth (CAPAY) aims to reduce racism toward Asians through education and community action activities, and strengthen the identity of Asian-American youth so that they can become strong leaders in their communities. Grounded in the belief that youth united by a common purpose can make a difference, CAPAY was founded in 1994. The organization is composed of over 100 youth between the ages of 14 and 20 and seeks to create social change and contribute to society through initiatives that include: educating themselves and others about Asian Pacific Americans, celebrating their Asian Pacific heritage, and improving race relations.
Despite nearly all being high-achieving, college-bound high school youth, many CAPAY youth are considered to be “at risk” because they struggle with depression, poverty, and intense family pressures to do well in school. Through various workshops including the Asian American Studies Workshop, youth build their knowledge of the past and in turn are able to see what is wrong in society today and go on to fix it.
During one workshop series, CAPAY youth partnered with Viet-AID, an adult community group, to address the fact that the Boston police had no Vietnamese speakers, so Vietnamese speakers could not report crimes. Another group created an APIA youth resource library, which is used by university and high school teachers and students, and community-based organizations. Still others are creating programs to teach people how to identify racism of Asians and dispel those stereotypes. In addition, young people organize CAPAY's annual Leadership Symposium, which attracts over three hundred and fifty APA youth each year.
Lessons from CAPAY
Quotes from CAPAY youth:
“I’ve been able to build bonds with other APA youth that I probably would never have met if not for CAPAY. It’s really cool how this organization can change people’s outlook in the world.”
“I love CAPAY, and everything it’s about, and I wish everyone could open up their eyes to see the actions that need to be done to help this society.”
“CAPAY is a place of joy, laughter, and education. It [comes from] an inspiration and a hope of a better place. It allows you to feel more in control of yourself and your community.”
C-Beyond strives to develop youth leaders who realize their individual and collective power to organize. They believe that oppression affects everyone and are dedicated to fighting it in all forms. This youth-led organization was founded in 1997 on the principle that white people should serve as allies to people of color in the struggle against racism. However, in 1999, the organization responded to its diverse constituency by revising its mission and dedicating itself to educate youth of color, low-income youth, young women, disabled youth, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. Youth at C-Beyond are on track for graduating high school and for the most part are not considered the “most vulnerable.” However, they deal with a range of personal issues, such as abusive parents, sexual assault, not having legal status in the U.S., mistrust by adults, harassment by police officers, and the lack of recreational opportunities due to the closure of the area youth center.
Each year, C-Beyond helps about 25 youth between the ages of 14 and 18, who are relatively invisible young people, develop into leaders by nurturing their uniqueness and giving them a forum to develop their voice. Youth staff is involved at every level of the campaign, and every campaign is organized as a series of mini-campaigns, strategically designed to have many small “wins” that lead up to a big “win.” To achieve its goals, C-Beyond has implemented new strategies for improving organizational leadership, one of their biggest challenges as a youth-led organization. Strategic thinking is developed by creating systems to help youth be aware of the impact of each step. Accountability to agreed-on goals and protocols is one of the best ways to be sure staff members are able to share power. And, quarterly “Airing Out” meetings with a facilitator help staff confront issues that come up in the course of their work and resolve conflicts that interfere with organizing for social change. Other components of their youth development efforts include: political and popular education workshops, a youth-written newspaper, weekend trainings, and summer internships.
Lessons from C-Beyond
Quotes from C-Beyond youth:
“I think C-Beyond is a great place for youth to learn about things that matter. Plus you have fun while you learn.”
“C-Beyond has changed my life and has opened my eyes.”
“I love being here. It’s a lot of fun and I used to be shy and now I have a lot of confidence.”
Founded in 1989 to enhance the leadership development opportunities for African-American youth in low-income communities, Leadership Excellence (LE) excels at engaging at-risk and vulnerable youth in a process of identity development, healing, and spiritual development. Many of the 150 youth ages 5-18 who participate in LE programs are recruited by word of mouth on the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area, but others are mandated to attend by probation officers or parents. Faced with challenges such as low academic achievement, teen pregnancy, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, gangs, sexual abuse, and rising violence, LE’s staff uses identity as a starting point to develop a critical consciousness among youth in order to promote civic engagement and healing.
Cutting edge workshops created by LE use Hip-Hop culture as a lens and a backdrop, they explore issues like cultural appreciation, a shared history of enslavement, spirituality, and sexism. During the Middle Passage Workshop, youth are blindfolded and led in a guided visualization of voice, music, and other sounds that reflect the experience of Africans being taken into slavery. Through this deep and moving experience, LE counselors help young African Americans connect with their “legacy of pain” because when pain is acknowledged, healing can begin. LE creates healthy socially conscious young people who have the tools and commitment to create social change. Success is measured when a young man rejects sexist terminology, or when young people make change in their community; one young woman advocated that her school create a child care program so young mothers like herself could be there.
Lessons from Leadership Excellence
Quotes from Leadership Excellence youth:
“It changed me in ’98 as far as my outlook on life, wanting to change myself…my mom says she sees so much change in me, she says ‘I can see it on you, you don’t even got to talk it.’…And that was just the beginning.”
“I was starting to find the love that I’d never had before, and I cared about people.”
“At LE I got to open myself up…and not just open it up and have to close it up myself, but open it up and have the support.”
“It’s about learning about our culture and our history, and not making it better than anyone else’s.”
Mi Casa Resource Center for Women, Inc.
Started in 1976 by eight Head Start Mothers dedicated to providing quality employment and education programs that promote self-sufficiency for low-income, Latina women and youth, Mi Casa (My House) has evolved into a multi-generational place for everyone from teenagers to senior citizens. Programs range from basic life skills training and health education to advice on starting a new business. Youth programs focus on teen pregnancy prevention, dropout prevention, and career development.
Mi Casa youth are part of a “family” and enjoy a deep connection to staff members who are often former youth participants in the organization. This emphasis on ensuring participants feel comfortable forms the basis for discussions about personal issues, ethnic labeling, and self-identification. Peer educators take on leadership roles by teaching about the dangers of STD/HIV infection and making presentations and theater performances in area schools, recreation centers, churches, detention facilities, and community agencies.
The Mi Casa YLDI project began with a three-year plan. They started with an assessment of community issues, surveying staff and youth at Mi Casa and other organizations, and developed a list of issues that needed attention in the community. Youth worked with the Denver Public School Board to change their anti-harassment policy to include sexual orientation, they planted a community garden with neighbors and they worked within their schools to get cleaner bathrooms. After some success, they tried to increase the youth’s role as activists. However, after several activist projects were reviewed, the board and executive director agreed that Mi Casa’s role would be to support youth in gaining the tools and awareness to become involved in community issues, but not necessarily to spearhead activism projects.
Lessons Learned from Mi Casa Resource Center for Women
Quotes from Mi Casa Resource Center for Women, Inc. youth:
“I feel good about myself knowing that I am a big part of my community and how much I helped out.”
“As an activist I try to practice what I preach. I drive to improve something, to collaborate and find solutions.”
National Youth Advocacy Coalition
A national network with 125 member organizations, the National Youth Advocacy Coalition (NYAC) advocates for and with young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (GLBT), and seeks to end discrimination against these youth and ensure their physical and emotional well-being. The network is racially and economically diverse and has sites in Providence, Rhode Island, Atlanta, Georgia, Indianapolis, Indiana, Raleigh Durham, North Carolina, and Jacksonville, Florida. Together, these communities aim to open the national dialogue on GLBT issues to include experiences of poor GLBT people and people of color.
The Race and Economic Justice (REJ) initiative is among the NYAC’s programs. Through REJ, young leaders expand their advocacy efforts beyond GLBT issues such as homophobia to include racism, sexism, and classism. This work allows NYAC to address the intersection of race, class, and sexual orientation as it affects the healthy development of youth. This has been a challenging project, as NYAC has advocated that a traditional white, middle class movement look hard at its institutionalized racism and address issues that make many uncomfortable. LGBT young people are likely to share only the experience of being “queer,” not of class, race, religion, or even gender. NYAC’s YLDI project will conclude with a careful case study analysis of this and other youth development issues, bringing much-needed lessons to LGBT youth-serving agencies around the country.
One of the most successful sites was at YouthPride in Providence, Rhode Island, where staff and leaders worked to acknowledge multiple social identities from the start of their project. Young people were grateful to be acknowledged for their sexual or gender identity and their race and class identity. An unintended benefit of this approach was that, as YouthPride Providence built its capacity to train themselves around race and class issues, they became known in the community as an excellent resource on these issues, and asked to work with other community groups, further broadening their constituent base.
Lessons Learned from the National Youth Advocacy Coalition
Creating a safe, positive, and affirming environment for young gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth is the goal of Outright, which began in 1987 and now serves 600 youth annually. Through casual weekly drop-ins which allow peers to socialize and adult advisors to offer support, a speaker’s bureau that provides opportunities for the community to hear from LGBTQ youth and participate in HIV and Sexual health education programs, Outright seeks to create a positive youth/adult collaboration while creating an environment which is accepting of different “ways of being.”
Outright programs like Quest, which trains youth in intervention techniques so that they can answer phone calls from young people or help support peers, provide the foundation for youth to support their own sexual identity and to better recognize oppression. Adult advisors help youth feel safe to be who they are, and to create opportunities for them to become well-balanced and functional adults. Even though it’s very hard, and goes against the grain of the traditional “youth-serving” community in many ways, Outright has landed squarely in a new culture of youth-adult collaboration that by its nature creates real opportunities for youth development and social change.
The benefits of these collaborations can be seen in countless ways: a youth member of Outright’s Support and Response Team takes a call from a school official asking for help with an anti-gay harassment incident, and talks the official through some options for changing the climate of her school; Outright youth organize a prom for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and questioning young people in Maine and 190 young people show up; and three young people—a transgender man, a lesbian, and a straight ally—take the stage in a high school auditorium and tell their stories to 300 teachers and students. At the end of the discussion, a young man stands up from the back row and thanks them, then says he used to call gay folks “faggots,” but after today, he never will again.
Lessons Learned from Outright
Quotes from Outright youth:
“It’s a safe place where I can be a leader and can be myself at the same time.”
“Growing up a lot of people called me a leader, but I didn’t really believe it. But after coming to Outright and actually planning things and doing things and carrying them through, I realized I am.”
Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA)
Economic, educational, and social challenges abound for the O’odham nation. With over 65 percent of the population living below poverty level, high rates of diabetes and alcohol abuse, a 60% drop out rate, and a lot of gangs, O’odham youth are at high risk. Founded in 1996, one of the ways TOCA leaders are confronting these challenges is by giving youth the chance to connect with their heritage and customs. By incorporating the spiritual guide of heritage and cultural traditions, focusing on community assets, not just its needs, strengthening community through cultural context, and encouraging self-sufficiency, TOCA has created a variety of practices for building youth leadership in a culturally appropriate way. Nearly 200 young people participate in TOCA activities annually.
TOCA is truly an intergenerational organization where youth/elder mentoring and multigenerational cultural programs such as the Youth-Elder Outreach Initiative to bring young people more fully into all of the efforts to revitalize the Tohono O’odham community including the Tohono O’odham Food System Program, the Tohono O’odham Basket Weavers Association, and the TOCA Arts and Cultural Revitalization Program. Among the ways young people can learn about themselves and their community is by participating in the annual Salt Pilgrimage, when community members collect salt and each person looks for a vision of his or her own strengths and gifts. The Tohono O’odham Arts and Culture Program teaches youth about their roles through traditional rites of passage, participation in ceremonies, and various arts and culture events. Recently, a group of young people organized a community poetry reading so that their voices could be heard in the community. Youth interns play important roles in coordinating, assisting, and teaching classes for community youth. Still others participate in adult-run decision making meetings, teach art classes, and give presentations on basket weaving. The Tohono O’odham community has learned that when young people engage in TOCA’s community development efforts, they gain strength. As they gain strength, so does the community.
Lessons from TOCA
Quotes from TOCA youth:
“It’s just pushed me more where I want to be able to do more for my culture, do as much as I can, do as much as I can.”
“Before TOCA, I was kind of in that rebellious stage where I was really trying to find an identity. But, after working with TOCA and after becoming closer with my mom and my family, I am really proud of who I am.”
Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice
Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPJ) is a faith-based organization founded in 1994 to foster peace and justice through community organizing and development. Located in an urban area, YMPJ works with youth surrounded by drug dealing, gang activity, and violent crime. There is no target group that YMPJ seeks to serve but the nearly 200 “members” of all faiths are between the ages of 6 and 21 and are evenly split between Blacks and Latinos.
The YMPJ youth leadership program works in four phases beginning with Arts for Activism, Education for Liberation, Compassionate Service, and finally Community Organizing. Each is designed to strengthen youth’s understanding of their community and themselves, while engaging youth academically and spiritually. In phase III, Compassionate Service, youth are exposed to “those who are suffering” so that when they engage in community organizing in phase IV, they will work out of compassion rather than anger and hatred.
YMPJ projects have had significant impact on the development of youth and have made strides in environmental justice and community police reforms resulting in improvements to the quality of life in the community. When YMPJ youth learned that an old cement plant in their neighborhood was being turned into a parking lot, they got organized. They decided the Bronx, a densely populated area, needed a park not a parking lot. Through their efforts, the land was transferred to the parks department. And, when the city announced that part of the lot would be used for a road, the youth organized again; they circulated petitions, they used street theater to inform residents, they got more signatures. They met with the Department of Transportation and they got press attention. They stopped the trucks. They’re still fighting to get the road off the map altogether, but thanks to YMPJ, the Bronx will get that park.
Lessons from YMPJ
Quotes from YMPJ youth:
“My real organizing experience has been from the space of need and urgency. So doing door knocking is not like something I need to think about, I do it because it is important to me and for my community.”
“I like the feeling of acceptance and the fact that I’m wanted.”
Youth United for Community Action
Youth United for Community Action (YUCA) is a youth-led community action organization founded in 1996 to create opportunities for youth of color to engage in grassroots community organizing within the environmental justice system. YUCA believes that young people must assume leadership roles today to be the leaders of tomorrow and ensures youth are meaningfully involved in all levels of the organization. YUCA is governed by a youth board, which is the organization’s main decision-making body, and an advisory board, which provides supportive oversight.
YUCA programs serve youth between the ages of 14 and 18. They strive to bring youth together in a healthy and safe place where they can explore community issues, research and evaluate the causes of these issues, and develop and implement a plan of action to address them. One example is their effort to support an environmental campaign to change an ordinance from heavy to light industry. Going head-to-head with large industry, YUCA defied the odds and in half the amount of time the law provided, obtained two hundred and forty five more signatures than the seven hundred and ten required. When the town knocked the number of verified signatures down to five hundred, YUCA analyzed the situation and developed a plan to verify the signatures themselves. It is work like this that keeps YUCA youth at the forefront of change.
Through other YUCA projects youth have addressed the health and environmental threat posed by a toxic waste recycling plant in their community, the inadequate educational environment at their local high school. They confront negative stereotypes of youth by documenting their own lives. Additionally, youth work to promote dialogue between young people, policy makers, schools, churches, and youth service programs. Through these programs, youth build organizing and research skills, practice public speaking, and learn effective communication by facilitating meetings.
Lessons from YUCA
Quotes from YUCA:
“We learned that it’s one thing to be committed to social change and youth organizing and it is another thing to be committed to a learning process that is by nature long term, where mistakes are made and owned, beliefs are challenged and sometimes changed, and flexibility and adaptability are paramount.” – YUCA staff member
“At YUCA I always feel like I’m home. It broadens my horizons as well as opens me up to new things. I’ve learned a lot about my culture and myself by being a part of YUCA.” -- YUCA youth
Young Womens’ Project
Guided by love, a belief in the power and abilities of teen women, and a commitment to involving young women in every level of organizational planning and leadership, the Young Womens’ Project (YWP) provides opportunities for under-resourced women to develop leadership skills. Founded in 1990, this multi-cultural organization provides training, information, skills, tools, and supports teen women and girl leaders so they can improve their own lives and transform their communities. The over 100 teens participating in the YWP programs are predominately African-American and most come from working poor families. Each young woman is encouraged to realize and develop her own power while building trust and supporting the others.
Leadership development is achieved through two year-round programs and a summer program. Teen Women in Action (TWA) provides an intensive training curriculum to help youth learn problem-solving skills, make healthy decisions, and build leadership skills. TWA also works with youth to identify issues, conduct a needs assessment and implement a project. Teen Led Projects employs teen staff to provide self-advocacy and leadership workshops to other teens.
One of YWP’s greatest accomplishments came from its effort to improve the foster care system in D.C. When YMP became aware, through young women living in group homes, that there were no regulations for them in the DC foster care system, they took a different tack—they wrote the regulations. Of course they did traditional organizing work, too. They “harassed the mayor’s office for months,” but they also collected models of effective systems, and got an idea of how the regulations should look. When the Mayor’s office finally hired a new staff member who was interested, the Young Womens’ Project was ready with a whole set of regulations, and that’s what’s in the system now, word-for-word.
Lessons from Young Womens’ Project
Quotes from YWP youth:
“YMP has helped me become a positive role model. I have become more confident in myself and the things that I can do. This is the absolute best program around.”
“I think about the direction that my future will be heading. Now, I am sure that I will be attending a women’s college. I feel proud for being a woman and I want to empower myself for the future.”
21st Century Youth Leadership Movement
Envisioning a safe and just society where people and communities are respectful, cooperative, self-sufficient, charged with and free to develop their potential and celebrate their differences, the 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement (21C) was founded by veteran civil rights leaders in 1985. 21C offers programs to inspire, assist, organize, and develop young people to become skilled community leaders, and empowers them and their communities to effect positive change. The organization serves over 500 youth between the ages of 11 and 25 and consists of 30 semi-autonomous local chapters.
At 21C, youth are primary decision-makers charged with determining what programs and services are offered as well as what issues the local chapters address through organizing campaigns. One chapter has made the connection between school tracking and prison tracking, noting that young people in certain school tracks are then “tracked” right in to the prison system. Others have addressed drug use in their communities, taking their work directly to the drug houses and police. The Amandla Chapter in Tuskeegee stopped a landfill in their community, and has developed a campaign to create a recreational facility.
Annually, upwards of 200 young boys and girls from around the southeast participate in the Leadership Training Camp, the cornerstone of the 21C leadership development programs. Youth with a heightened interest in activism find more in-depth training through the Committed Leaders Program. An exchange program with the Mali Chapter in West Africa provides a few Committed Leaders opportunity to gain international perspectives on leadership. Throughout these programs, youth are given leadership positions such as camp counselor and tutor, lead workshops, speak at public meetings, organize rallies, or conduct voter registration. 21C programs are preparing youth to initiate and participate in campaigns to create social change movements.
Lessons from 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement
Quotes from 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement youth:
“Ever since I joined 21st Century I’ve enjoyed myself. I just like to be a 21st Century member because everything you give the chapter, it gives back.”
“I like to help kids read. I like to help kids change their wrong ways. I like to help kids stay strong in their work.”