Youth Together School Year Programming
Youth Together prioritizes both the personal development of our youth and their overall educational success. As a multi-racial, justice oriented youth organization grounded in achieving educational equity and social reform, we work tirelessly to educate ourselves and our youth on pertinent issues and movements affecting all communities. For us, this means dynamic programming, consistent mentorship, and political and cultural education for all students, in a safe, supportive, and inclusive community. We strive to create spaces during the school day and after school for students to engage in learning about different cultures and experiences, where students are pushing themselves to academically succeed, and where students are growing and progressing on a steady basis.
Youth Together Summer Institute
The Youth Together Summer Institute is a yearly, two-to-three week training intensive program where students are given opportunities to learn about social movements and different communities in depth. We bring our Lead Student Organizers and Core Team Members from our Castlemont and Skyline sites together to educate them on communities of color, their experiences, and how we can work together to build multi-racial solidarity around issues that are and aren’t intersectional. The program is split into three key areas: Cultural development, Social Development, and Leadership Development.
The Youth Together Summer Institute’s Cultural Development piece is centered on giving students opportunities to learn about and share important pieces of their cultures with each other. At Youth Together, celebrating each other in the fullness of who we are means reflecting on our personal narratives and the narratives of others. We believe that through learning culture and sharing culture, we gain a deeper understanding of how to enter into spaces equitably while honoring our sacred narratives. This can range from explaining pieces of one’s prayer routine, or how one may honor their ancestors or family members, to what certain foods mean to your culture. Because culture is a mutable and expansive area to cover, we work to make sure that students and staff feel that they are respected, supported, and appreciated.
Additionally, our cultural development is closely intertwined to our summer curriculum. The Summer Institute curriculum is heavily based on learning about different cultures through an Ethnic Studies lens, and emphasizing our cultural learning as equal to other areas of study, such as mathematics and the sciences. We engage students in learning from and understanding different socio-cultural classifications, the histories of ethnic and racial groups in the United States, and how those narratives influence and shape our experiences today. Through this dynamic education process, we are giving students the opportunities to
build solidarity through reciprocal learning as well as the tools to effectively work across diverse communities toward common goals.
As Youth Together, we understand that the first responsibility we have to our youth is to make sure that our students are achieving academically and holistically, no matter what their circumstances are. We stress academic empowerment throughout our summer program through engaging students in personal learning opportunities, and creating individualized educational plans BEFORE the school year starts. With a thorough and expansive educational plan, students are able to be competitive in their education and leadership development while having the tools to advocate for themselves in personal and professional settings. We strive for our students to be able to critically analyze their trajectory in the schooling system and take ownership of their education. We achieve this through making sure our students understand what classes they need in order to graduate as well as A-G requirements, which are required to enter a state university or college. In fact, after local students from various organizations, including Youth Together, pushed for a district change, A-G requirements were inducted as the OUSD graduation requirements in 2009. In addition, we emphasize early exposure to different college campuses in the immediate area, ranging from SF State and UC Berkeley, to more local colleges, such as Laney and Chabot. Supporting students throughout their education including the competitive college process will ensure that our youth are able to thrive. Our goals are to instill a sense of preparedness and confidence while fostering a larger college-going culture.
Lastly, as a multi-racial youth justice organization, we ground ourselves in the understanding that our youth are powerful agents of change. We live out this vision by encouraging and supporting youth in becoming community organizers. We believe that, through fostering youth leadership, we are building the foundation for holistic self-determination and self-organization within our communities. By working intensively to engage our students in learning the basic principles of community organizing, we are simultaneously providing tools they will need to organize their personal and professional lives. Training students with community organizing fundamentals provides avenues by which our youth can work collaboratively to make changes in their school, community, district and beyond. Our curriculum is constantly revised and reworked as a collaborative effort between students, staff, and other organizations that specialize in training and supporting organizers. We also work to make sure that our students have opportunities to experience spaces, places, and events that are often inaccessible due to cost, culture, or geography. Our field trips are focused on understanding geopolitical, social, and cultural issues in real time from community members and leaders in those spaces. Our collective goal is for students to not only be able to deconstruct systems of oppression, but to theorize and envision a more effective, equitable society. Youth Together’s hope is for all our students to develop a critical social consciousness that will prompt solidarity, a passion for justice, and a initiative to create long-lasting change.
Student Narratives from YT Summer Institute (2016)
“I learned numerous new things that I felt related more to my type of mindset and the life of those around me. Throughout the course of a single week, I felt exposed to the flaws within society and it motivated me to speak up for those who struggle to as well as be an advocate for my own beliefs. During the course of the 3 weeks, I felt super attached to the staff and was given the rare opportunity to learn about individuals from various backgrounds and experiences. This summer program will certainly be an asset that I can use in the near future to not only help myself but others as well.Hearing differing perspectives from people of all over is always fascinating and in my personal opinion, one of the best ways to learn. “ (Cynthia Baquero, 12th Grader at Skyline High School)
“This summer I attended the Youth Together Summer Program. I joined late into the first week. My friend told me about it and it sounded fun. When I walked in everyone was having fun. Everyone was so welcoming. It was really easy to catch on and join in. In the first week we all got to know each other. I really enjoyed the lessons that were made for us. All of the students were engaged during these lessons and throughout the rest of the program. I wish my classes at school were like this. Having less students made it easier for everyone to share their opinions. I learned a lot of topics that normal classes did not like to discuss. The second week was even better. It was nice to actually talk about real life issues. Honestly it was the highlight of my summer. “ (Leilani Rountree, 11th Grader, Skyline High School)
“Over the past 3 weeks this summer, I was in YT’s Summer Program. It was an amazing experience that taught me a lot about what was going on in the world. We also went out to different parts of our community on field trips; they were really fun and made us see many perspectives on different things like art, education, our communities, and more. The program gave us an opportunity to meet new people and see what they do for a living, that was great to see. Overall the YT Program was really great. It made me meet new people and learn a lot. I’m also thankful for the opportunities it gave me, it was a pleasure to be in the program.” (Tamara Vanegas, 10th Grader, Skyline High School)