May 9, 2023
By: Adama Diallo & Laura Jankstrom
CCC engages New York City youth through YouthAction NYC, a scaffolded civic learning and leadership development program that mobilizes young people around the changes they would like to see in their communities. YouthAction NYC has three distinct programs that young people progress through as their advocacy skills and interests are honed.
All YouthAction participants are between the ages of 14 – 24, with subsequent opportunities for alumni to join our Advocacy Council as adult members. Participants are supported with a $500 stipend per semester for their active participation and receive community service credit which can be used for school requirements and college and job applications.
Young people enter our program through the YouthAction NYC Internship Program, where they are introduced to the concept of advocacy, learn to map issues they see and experience, develop data literacy, and practice organizing and advocating around the issues and solutions they identify. These young people meet once a week for skill building, research, and project planning. All sessions are designed to develop the leadership and civic engagement of the cohort.
Our newest cohort of youth participating in the internship have spent the year learning about advocacy and honing their civic engagement skills through the lens of youth justice. With the support of several CCC staff – Civic Engagement Associate Adama Diallo, Policy & Advocacy Associate Caitlyn Passaretti, and Data & Research Associate Cristina Onea – they learned about key youth justice campaigns including Raise the Age, Solutions Not Suspensions, Attorneys Before Interrogation, and Youth Justice & Opportunities. In their second semester with us, they worked in partnership with likeminded peers to put their new knowledge into action by raising public and political will around youth justice initiatives state and citywide.
In March, interns facilitated a social media Day of Action they called #InvestInYouthNY, where they posted images of young people with signs displaying the investments they would like to see in their communities. In April and May, our youth partnered with their peers from several organizations such as Youth Represent, Children’s Defense Fund, Osborne Association, Exalt and more on two Lobby Days in Albany. The first was in support of the Solutions Not Suspensions bill, which aims to end exclusionary discipline practices and instead foster positive school climates for all students. The second lobby day was to advocate for the passage of the Youth Justice & Opportunities Act (YJ&O), which seeks to eradicate the barriers created by a criminal conviction that make it harder for young people to finish school, get good jobs, and find stable housing. This dedicated cohort is closing out the year with a youth-designed project to raise awareness and foster spaces for discussions about the inequitable practices found in schools and other parts of government and how these inequities impact NYC Youth.
Upon completion of the YCLC, young people who wish to continue and deepen their engagement with CCC become YouthAction Members (YAMs). Meeting once a week, this group engages in several youth-led projects over the year, supports CCC’s campaigns and coalitions, and develops and delivers policy recommendations for NYC leaders around key issues impacting youth. YouthAction members host forums, speak at rallies, meet with elected officials, present to Community Boards, testify at public hearings, create short films and use other artistic mediums to raise awareness, and so much more.
This year, the YouthAction Members (YAMs), along with youth advocates from YVote and CUNY’s Intergenerational Change Initiative (ICI), worked over the course of the fall and winter to produce the 2023 NYC Youth Agenda. This group analyzed data from ICI’s 2022 Youth Ask Youth census, which surveyed thousands of young people about the issues that are important to them, and then hosted idea generation events to develop solutions to the problems identified in the survey. Working with adult allies to hone their research and drill down on their recommendations, the group hosted a policy breakfast in February where they unveiled the 2023 Youth Agenda to over 180 young people, community leaders and elected officials, as well as presented an analysis of policies based on recommendations from the 2022 NYC Youth Agenda and responses from Elected Officials. They are closing out the year in targeted meetings with policy makers to make good on the commitments that were made at breakfast.
Peer Trainers are YouthAction participants who have shown skills and interest in public speaking and facilitation. This group designs and facilitates workshops for other youth groups interested in learning about advocacy and civic engagement in New York City. They develop one-off workshops such as Advocacy 101 and The New York City Budget, and they also develop limited-series curricula for groups who need assistance in jump starting an advocacy project of their own. This year our partners include Big Brother Big Sister, Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Club, YouthBridge, and the Osborne Association. Workshops are held in-person and virtually and can be requested via CCC’s website.
These programs are crucial aspects of CCC’s community and civic engagement commitments. Please check out any of the links in this post to learn more about the incredible work of these young advocates.