Saying Good Bye to a Longtime Organizer

For the past decade Sagnicthe Salazar has been a part of the Youth Together family. She has grown up with us and become a great leader and teacher to not only the students but to her peers. It is with great appreciation and a bit of sadness that at the end of the month, we say good bye to Sagnicthe as she leaves Youth Together to pursue her dreams elsewhere. In the following interview Santi talks to her about her time at Youth Together, how she got started what she will remember most.

How long have you been at YT?
I have been at YT for 10 years since 2001, when I was an 8th grader

Wow that’s a long time, how did you get started in YT?
I started because my older sister was in the program and I went with her to meetings to stay out of trouble.  I usually just waited around while everyone was in the meetings till the site organizer started getting me engaged.  She asked me to arrange and co-facilitate presentations in some of my eighth grade classes because they were doing recruitment for the summer program that Youth Together hosted for incoming ninth graders.  I enjoyed having a leadership position and I soon got really interested in the campaign that Skyline Youth Together students were doing to open up a School Based Youth Center.  I felt that having something like that at my middle school would have been really helpful for me and my peers to get the extra support and services and was really surprised to find out that this was something that students had to fight for.  I was encouraged by the site organizer to speak about my experience in front of school board meetings and city council meetings in order to gather support and funding to make the center a reality.  The work of the campaign led me to apply for an Least Student Organizer position when I started Freshman year at Skyline and I have been in leadership at Youth Together ever since.

Why have you stayed so long at Youth Together?
Feeling the power as a student and seeing the concrete changes that we could make made me want to stay in the organization after I first joined, but throughout the years having the opportunity to witness the transformation that young people make and seeing them understand their own power has been super powerful and has made me stay for so many years.

What are your most memorable moments at YT?
One of my most memorable moments as a student was the opening of the One Land One People Youth Center at Skyline.  Being able to see the fruition of the work we had put in and after fighting with middle class neighbors who were against the idea of students of color getting more resources, seeing the portable drive on to the campus and being able to paint it and decorate it was amazing.  As a staff one of my most memorable moments was the action we coordinated in Conquered at the head quarters of ETS – the company that manufactures and profits from standardized testing.  We were able to get hundreds of students and many Organize Da Bay Coalition organizations protest this big company and come face to face with the people who are making money out of stealing the futures and education of our communities.  The most amazing part of this action for me was getting to see one of the first students that I was developing, step up and speak in front of the crowd for the first time and in that moment, I could see how she was beginning to understand the power that she had a young person!

What will you miss the most?
The thing that I will miss the most about YT is young people.  Watching young people grow and make a commitment to social justice has been the most regarding thing that I have done in my life and I thank YT for introducing me to this experience.

What are your plans for the future?
I plan to continue working with young people in Oakland and in the Bay area and transforming the education system.  I hope to one day be able to open up a school where I can integrate many of the values and models that I have learned in Youth Together so that the next generation of children in Oakland can have a place that serves as a center of their community and serves to empower and develop them into individuals that think critically and play a positive role in the upliftment of our communities.

What do you think about Youth Organizing in the Bay?
I think that the Bay Area is full of resources, full of talent from community as well as young people, full of creativity, and ripe for change.  As we continue the work here in the Bay Area we need to really pay attention to the young people and allow them to drive the work.  Young people are full of answers and if we listen to them I think the work in the Bay Area could really take off.  I think that its important that we also get our young people to build across sectors and organizations so they can really understand what it means to be a part of a movement!
How will you say active in the organizing community?

I plan to continue my work with Xicana Moratorium Coalition and continue working on issues impacting migrant communities, young people, our Oakland Community and continue building international solidarity amongst Xicanas and other communities who are struggling to protect land and life!

What were your biggest lessons you’ve learned over the past10 years?
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned over the past ten years is that anything is possible.  I have seen tremendous changes in the district, the city and in the Bay Area that have resulted from young people, community and organizations believing in our vision and working to make it happen.  Student Engagement in OUSD has been transformed, centers have opened, OUSD is implementing A-G curriculum as a graduation requirement, Restorative justice is being implemented in all school in Oakland, and many other changes have resulted from the organizing work.  The second most important lesson that I have learned is that we need to not depend on institutions to implement our vision.  Changing policies is great, but policies don’t necessarily change people’s lives and people’s hearts in the way that the organizing work and the movement can.  As this work continues changing lives, more and more young people will be going into the world to create tremendous change and really implement our vision in a way that no policy or institution can.

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