Engaging Youth as Authentic Thought Partners to Advance Systems Change and Social Justice
The California Endowment President’s Youth Council’s (PYC) youth engagement model focuses on wellness, equity, access, narrative, and social change for youth power and systems change. The PYC has influenced The California Endowment’s (TCE) youth development and leadership strategies and has served as a precursor to TCE’s Advancing Racial Equity process. At SOCAP20, Dr. Robert K. Ross, M.D., President and CEO of TCE, held a discussion with PYC members Leslie (Lupe) Renteria Salome, Karla Ortiz, and Jahiem “Geo” Jones.
Dr. Jones kicked off the discussion by sharing why he created the PYC and what the importance of such a council is in this specific moment in time.
“We’re living at a very pivotal and potentially transformative moment in our nation’s history,” Dr. Ross said. “Probably the most important social justice moment easily in the last 50 years maybe even the last 100 years given COVID and some of the racial injustice events that have happened. … The history of social justice — not just in this country but globally — has shown that young people are always at the forefront of social justice change.”
As part of her involvement with the PYC, Ortiz was able to participate in the youth-led philanthropy.
“We are all about shifting and changing the narrative that has been in place for so long,” Ortiz said. “… Now I’m in a position where I’m able to grant money, I’m in a position where I can fund organizations, I can fund movements that are doing the work that I would have loved to have seen when I was a young person in these communities.”
Jones emphasized the importance of empowering youth and teaching them about the work of the impact economy and social justice young so that they can contribute their unique perspectives to crucial, ongoing conversations about systems change.
“When we’re talking about creating a youth pipeline, we have to be really invested into youth power with that being youth-led, youth-driven, youth-oriented, youth-paved,” Jones said. “When I first came into the PYC, I was 16. I didn’t know what any of this was. I had just learned what a W-9 was. They really invested into me at such a young age, knowing I was just now learning certain topics and really starting to be into this organizing work of networking on a state-wide level. I definitely think it’s about investing into youth much lower than 16. … Just being a minor, I’ve been able to craft different ideologies, experiences, viewpoints, and perspectives.”
Learn more about the innovative practice of engaging young people as authentic thought-partners and how youth-led and -shaped narrative change, empowerment, and governance is critical for movement work in the video above.