The rural communities of California’s Central Valley are vital to our state’s economy, but their unique needs and issues are often overlooked and under-resourced. Youth are particularly vulnerable, and their voices are essential to creating thriving communities that young people want to stay in and return to.
The Rural Youth Commission Advocacy program was established in 2017 with the support of The California Endowment. The program plants the seeds of youth leadership and activism in Fresno’s rural areas by launching youth-led campaigns to establish Youth Commissions in the Central Valley’s small towns and cities. Youth Commissions are a recognized entity of city government, and are responsible for advising local government on policies and laws related to young people. They are a key platform for youth voice at decision-making tables.
The Rural Youth Commission Advocacy program invites young leaders into a safe space where they can take a critical look at the world they live in and how it impacts them. With this critical lens, they are led through intensive trainings that prepare them to plan and implement campaigns that address these issues.
In the cities of Orange Cove and Reedley, youth advocacy groups succeeded in partnering with the Council members from to draft resolutions that will establish new Youth Commissions. As they push forward on getting these resolutions passed, these youth leaders have already begun researching issues in their communities, conducting a survey to gather feedback on local youth employment opportunities, as well as perspectives on youth voice and youth commissions. This data will be used to guide targeted research on specific issues to address once the Commissions have been established.
Youth participants attend weekly meetings and the annual YALL Summer Leadership Program. Stay tuned for applications, which will become available when the Youth Commissions are formally established.