|Since its inception the Southwest Network determined that developing youth leadership was critical for the success of addressing local environmental and economic justice issues. In 1993, the YLD Campaign was initiated at the Youth Caucus Meeting during the third Southwest Network Gathering held in San Diego, California. The Youth Leadership and Development Campaign (YLD) has
continued to support Southwest Network member organizations and their efforts to engage youth in decision making processes, build capacity, build leaders, and build community and has served as a vehicle to refresh the environmental and economic justice movement by continually training and incorporating a cadre of youth of color organizers. A commitment was made by the Southwest Network leadership to continually and actively incorporate youth voices in the decision-making process of the organization. This commitment resulted in designating (2) two seats for youth representatives in the Coordinating Council (Southwest Network Board of Directors), the organization’s primary leadership body, and establishing the Youth Leadership Development Campaign (YLD), led exclusively by young people.
The program is an on-going internal campaign to encourage youth leadership and development within Southwest Network member organizations and in the broader environmental justice movement. It serves as a vehicle to refresh the environmental and economic justice movement by continually training and incorporating a cadre of youth of color organizers. The YLD Campaign leadership is comprised of a core group of 15 youth representatives from member organizations that guide the work of the Campaign.
The YLD brings young people and adults together in effective cross-generational partnerships, provides training, network opportunities and technical as well as peer support in becoming effective problem solving leaders. Participating youth must be actively engaged in the local work of a member organization and are supported and encouraged to maintain active involvement in the work of their local organization as well as participate in other Southwest Network campaigns, projects and training. Training, peer learning, and adult mentoring continue to be key components of the YLD Campaign.
In 1994, the YLD Campaign coordinated the first Southwest Network Summer Youth Placement Program (SYPP). The Summer Youth Placement Program is a ten-week internship program that provides high-school age and college age youth an opportunity to work with a Southwest Network Affiliate organization during the summer. Participants are compensated with a weekly stipend. The program includes intensive civic engagement, a mentored work experience, an evaluation process and a leadership development and community organizing training. This program helps to build the capacity of Southwest Network Affiliates in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California, and the Northern Border States of Mexico.
In 1997, the Southwest Network conducted an assessment of past participants of the Summer Youth Placement Program. The overwhelming majority of these young people continue even today to play a leadership role in their organizations. Some continue as volunteers or members and leaders in their communities, the environmental and economic justice movement, and several serve as staff or are on the Board of Directors of Southwest Network affiliated groups.
In 2002, the Youth Leadership and Development Campaign formalized the summer youth training calling it the Southwest Network Youth Organizing Training Institute (YOTI). The YOTI now included the participants of the Summer Youth Placement Program and other youth from Southwest Network affiliated organizations. The trainings of the YOTI also expanded from a three-day training to a five-day training. In 2002, the first YOTI was held in Los Angeles, California and thereafter has taken place in the following cities: Albuquerque, Austin, San Francisco, Oakland and in Matamoros and Torreon, Mexico. In 2007, the YOTI was held in Atlanta in support of the U.S. Social Forum.
In 2006, the Youth Leadership and Development Campaign coordinated and held the First Bi-national Youth Organizing Training Institute in Matamoros, Mexico.
In 2008, the Youth Leadership and Development Campaign initiated a preliminary assessment of the Summer Youth Placement Program building off of the assessment completed in 1997. A committee comprised of past and current youth members and participants is working on an in-depth assessment of the Summer Youth Placement Program looking at successes, challenges, and recommendations for the future. The report is tentatively scheduled to be released in the winter of 2010.
In 2008 the Southwest Network held its first Youth Organizing Training Institute in Torreon, Mexico coordinated by affiliates in Mexico. There were over forty (40) youth participants from Mexico. Meanwhile, the U.S. Youth Organizing Training Institute was held in Oakland and San Francisco, California. This continued in 2009 with the U.S. YOTI being held in Albuquerque, New Mexico and then in Torreon, Mexico.
Since 1994 over 140 youth have participated in the Southwest Network Summer Youth Placement Program and over 170 youth have participated in the Southwest Network Youth Organizing Training Institute.
For more information on our Youth Leadership and Development Campaign please contact Michael Sarmiento.
|The Southwest Network believes it is imperative for youth to become active participants in the decision-making processes that directly affect their lives. Community organizing and civic engagement provides young people the opportunity to envision and practice participatory democracy and equips them with the tools and knowledge they need to become informed, active community leaders.
Effective grassroots community organizing must be a positive experience for young people to learn from one another and network to create social change that builds and moves their communities collectively. While respecting the experiences and perspectives of young people, organizations must ensure that training, peer-learning, and adult mentoring occurs. These three components play a significant role in engaging young people in community organizing. Key to effective engagement of young people is dedicating the time it requires. While basic, many organizations are not prepared for the staff time young people need. An inter-generational and organizational approach becomes necessary for ensuring sustained youth involvement in decision-making processes and community organizing.
Grassroots community-based organizing internships committed to investing the resources and time to strategically engage young people is one effective means of involving youth in their communities and in decision-making processes. Yet, while many organizations understand it is imperative to build and support young people through leadership and development opportunities, they often face limited organizational resources needed to deliberately integrate youth into their organization. The Southwest Network YLD Campaign offers these opportunities through the Youth Organizing and Training Institute and the Summer Youth Placement Program.
The Youth Organizing and Training Institute (YOTI)
The YOTI provides a weeklong intensive civic engagement and community organizing training program for high school and college age young people working on environmental and economic justice issues in their community. The YOTI includes participants of the Summer Youth Placement Program, as well as additional youth from Southwest Network affiliated organizations. The agenda and trainings are developed by the Youth Leadership and Development Campaign Core group members and the training is conducted by youth and invited adults from an intergenerational perspective.
The Summer Youth Placement Program (SYPP)
The SYPP offers high school and college age young people an opportunity to work with a Southwest Network affiliated organization for ten weeks with adult mentoring. Participants are compensated with a weekly stipend. The program includes intensive civic engagement and community organizing training through the YOTI, a mentored work experience, and an evaluation process.
Trainings and Workshops
The YLD Campaign along with other core groups and staff of the Southwest Network are able to conduct trainings on environmental justice and other areas. For more information please contact the Southwest Network office at (505) 242-0416 or via email email@example.com.
On February 20, 2009 , in Santa Fe, New Mexico the Southwest Network YLD Campaign Core Group members and the New Mexico EJ Working Group coordinated and conducted a statewide Environmental Justice 101 training for youth working on or wanting to work on issues of environmental justice. There were over 40 participants representing the following organizations: Colonias Development Council, Honor Our Pueblo Environment, Product of Aztlan: Center for Culture, Power, and Justice, and the United South Broadway Bosque Youth Conservation Core.