When we RISE as individuals, we are obligated to LIFT our communities.
While today’s society is taking its toll on all young people, there are some who have been more deeply impacted than others. Merced’s boys and men color — particularly system-impacted and foster youth — are the most vulnerable in our community.
Rise & Lift is a program for Boys & Men of Color that provides leadership, unity, bonding, and healing through La Cultura Cura and ethical based teaching. Through youth-led research and advocacy, we help Merced communities rise.
Rise and Lift begins with the individual, offering youth opportunities for deep personal healing through La Cultura Cura — “culture heals.” The curriculum connects youth with adult mentors and community elders in a process of reclaiming cultural practices, including rites of passage that guide the transition from boyhood into manhood. Through this process, they develop their own narratives about their personal and cultural identities, and learn to demonstrate honor through action. The teachings draw on indigenous north American cultures that were common before colonization.
As they nourish their cultural roots, youth participants also explore how their lives have been impacted by structural oppression. Following the arc of YLI leadership programming, they engage in Youth-Led Action Research on key issues that impact youth in Merced County, such as school climate, community violence (drug use, domestic violence, gangs, etc), and teen pregnancy, among others.
In the summer of 2018, Rise and Lift youth organized events — like the Merced Ballers 3 on 3 basketball tournament — to attract local youth and conduct research on local issues that impact them. They collected over 100 surveys and will be using the data to plan and implement the Displaced Youth Project, addressing youth homelessness in Merced.
The program also offers an annual leadership academy, Cultura, Organizing, Resistance, and Action (CORA), that brings Rise and Lift and GWoC (Merced’s program for girls and women of color) together to build leadership skills. Read the story of Citlali Haro, who participated in the first-ever CORA Leadership Academy.
Rise and Lift is open to all male-identified youth (middle school to college-age) in Merced. Program meetings are held on Wednesdays — two meetings per month are dedicated to campaign organizing, and two days are dedicated to La Cultura Cura curriculum.