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2023 Bold Steps for Children Award: Youth Liberation Movement

The best thing to come out of the Opportunity Youth Partnership is the Youth Liberation Movement.

In 2013, Santa Clara County was funded by the Aspen Institute to improve results for Opportunity Youth, youth ages 16 – 24 who were not engaged in education nor employment. As we worked collectively to improve the education and employment ecosystem for these young people, we realized that something important was missing – young people with lived experience who would inform our thinking about policies, programs and pathways, and ensure we made the right decisions. Today, the OYP, no longer exists, but the Youth Liberation Movement does and its mission is to liberate young people from the cycle of generational trauma and oppression by translating their lived experience into actionable solutions.

The twelve members of the Youth Liberation Movement (YLM) including four Fellows, are working tirelessly to fulfill this mission. And in the organization’s young life, there have already been many accomplishments:

  • Participating in the 2022 Amity Youth Summit, bringing together youth leaders from across the County to collaborate, discuss issues impacting young people and begin redesigning the Bill of Rights for Children and Young Adults.

  • Conducting participatory research with opportunity youth from throughout Santa Clara County. This research lifted up that most see the benefits of higher education, but face many obstacles that prevent them from fully participating in their schoolwork or their ability to complete enrollment processes.

  • Advocating for the establishment of the Work2Future Youth Committee comprised of youth-serving organizations and two YLM Young Leaders.

  • Convening the Youth Forum, a robust 12-month effort with over 60 cross-sector partners and more importantly, youth leaders from FLY’s Youth Advisory Council, the Office of Supportive Housing Youth Action Board and members of the Resilience Corps. The goal of the Youth Forum is to identify 1- 3 actionable policy solutions that advance an Opportunity Ecosystem in Santa Clara County.

  • Presenting at the 2022 (and today’s) Children’s Summit and providing Summit participants with important insights into their daily lives and what must be done to support their success.

  • Leading the redesign of the Bill of Rights for Children and Young Adults, leading listening sessions with hundreds of young people from across the County and creating a youth-designed Bill of Rights be the guidepost for our policies, practices and investments.

  • Having a YLM member appointed to the City of San Jose’s Community Stabilization and Opportunity Pathways Fund Commission which will oversee the allocation of the $155 million in Google social investment as part of their Downtown West development.

Too often policymakers, program implementers and direct service staff develop policy or bring services to the community that they think will work. However, policies and programs developed without community input – no matter how well intentioned – often repeatedly disadvantage the same groups, leading to harmful unintended consequences or compounding generational trauma. When the community – in this case young leaders – is included from the beginning in the design and delivery, these consequences can be avoided. Everybody does better!


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