YouthPower, St. Paul Youth Services' youth-led organizing hub
Kids changing systems
vs. systems changing kids
St. Paul Youth Services’ YouthPower Leadership Institute offers an organizing hub where youth of color can gather, reflect, express themselves, build skills, organize, and advocate for serious change on issues that affect their lives.
The program was initiated as a pilot program in the summer of 2017 for Black boys and Black young men. Programming for Black girls and Black young women was added during the 2017-2018 school year.
Since that time, the youth involved in our program have achieved remarkable goals, including the creation of a YouthPowered space; a strengthened sense of identity, culture, and community; creative and critical thinking through powerful storytelling vehicles; and a youth train-the-trainer and community building model. Our youth have also advocated to elected officials and other decision-makers on youth-designed policy changes impacting their lives.
Our motto is: Kids Are Changing Systems vs. Systems Changing Kids. We believe that it is THE most promising and proportionate approach to dismantling systemic racism, and that by engaging youth in shaping and promoting solutions is a largely untested yet effective and strategic approach to change.
Goals for the program:
• Immediate and long-term improvement in how Black youth are treated at and experience school
• Broader awareness -- not just of educational inequities -- but of solutions identified, prioritized, and designed by Black students themselves
• Engagement of Black youth throughout the systemic change process and compensation for their effort, leadership, and creative and intellectual capital
• Use of multiple strategies for achieving systemic change so participating youth gain first-hand exposure with multiple community problem-solving approaches
• Demonstration of a pioneering and sustainable model for community change (YouthPower) to dismantle systemic racism and white supremacy and create educational equity