A mentor of mine, Brittany Packnett, recently reflected on her experience working with young people, and defined it as follows: Leadership is proximal, leadership is truthful, leadership is consistent, and leadership is unapologetic. In my last three months at YLI I have come to appreciate each of these views of leadership when I see the work that Brenda, Janet, Abdul, Gabe, and the many more YLI young people do every day.
Over my first 100 days I have had the privilege and opportunity to observe campaigns designed by our young leaders across the state. In Marin County, our young leaders researched educational inequity in their community, interviewed students, educators, and community members, built partnerships with countywide organizations, and then filmed and screened a documentary highlighting what they found. Brenda’s involvement was critical because it derived from her own experience and the low standards and expectations she felt her teachers have for her.
In Fresno, Janet led a team that developed an initiative to publicize making good choices around graduation by placing ads on five billboards across the city. Janet is always honest about the realities she sees, whether in a group of young people or sitting in the office of one of her city councilors—she doesn’t mince words and shares her truth from her own community.
In San Francisco there is a consistent face I see every week. Abdul is in the office working to dissect the applications for the Building Leaders in Innovative New Giving (BLING) youth-to-youth grantmaking group, or dreaming up a new analogy for young people to dive into anti “ism” work. His passion is true and he works hard on everything he sets his mind to.
In San Mateo, the leadership of our young people comes together every day. Gabe’s reflection on how payday lending has effected his community and him personally led him to join with others to not only campaign for restrictions on payday lenders in the community but also to educate his peers on financial planning. This project requires defining who is helping and who is hurting the community, and being clear, honest, and direct in this work.
As we close out one program year and begin the next, I want to emphasize that all of our young leaders have the skills to do this work. If you are, or know of, a young person who would like to get involved, please reach out to one of our four offices (contact information in the sidebar). Our work is also built on the strong adult allies who have their back. We have a number of open positions on our website if you would like to join our team and work side by side with our young leaders every day. Finally, I feel strongly about the power of volunteers. I myself found YLI through volunteering, and if you would prefer to volunteer your time in one of our offices, please email [email protected].
Lastly, if you could help us close out the year strong, please make a donation to YLI today. In the past 3 months we have raised more than $50,000 from supporters like you. Every dollar helps our young people build their skills as leaders by addressing financial justice, healthy food access, educational inequity, and other issues in pursuit of positive community change.
As I enter my second quarter at YLI, I am honored by your support and I look forward to continuing to meet many of you across our communities.