Monday, November 29, 2021

Civic Engagement and Activism in Afterschool Programs: The Importance of Program Staff


By Sam Piha

We are continuing to post a series of blogs to inform and encourage expanded learning programs to start today infusing civic engagement and activism in their afterschool program. NOTE: There are many program resources on the topic, some of which are detailed in our paper, Youth Civic Engagement and Activism in Expanded Learning Programs. You can view previous blogs from this series here. We also conducted a webinar on this topic which can be viewed here.


In this blog, we discuss things to think about when preparing adult program staff to lead civic engagement and activism activities.  

Hiring - We know that the effectiveness and quality of youth program activities rests on the competency of the adult leaders that we hire. What traits are we looking for in adults that will lead youth civic engagement and activism activities? 

In numerous studies, the most highly rated characteristics of effective initiatives all involved characteristics of adults who: 1) relate well to youths; 2) care about young people; 3) are honest and comfortable in talking about issues; 4) are sufficiently trained to implement the program; 5) support and understand the program's goals; and 6) have a good overall understanding of adolescent development. Another important dimension is to seek out adult advisors and youth coordinators who reflect the diversity of the community. Equally important, young people need to see adults exchanging ideas, collaborating and having fun with people from different backgrounds. - Wendy Schaetzel Lesko, Maximum Youth Involvement: The Complete Gameplan for Community Action

Staff Training - How necessary is it to prepare and train the staff? According to Youth On Board, “Adults need help learning how to collaborate with young people just as much as youths need help adjusting to their transformed role. Even though we all were young once, it is easy to forget. What a difference a few decades make in widening the proverbial generation gap! Adultism workshops by such groups as Youth On Board are designed to confront negative stereotypes and unspoken fears about teens. Trainings need to permeate the institution from the boardroom on down. Broader diversity training for staff, board members, youth staff and/or volunteers can be another worthwhile investment—especially if sessions go beyond the issue of age to include socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, regional background, family history, personality type, etc.”

Staff support for civic engagement and youth activism will look different across different kinds of organizations. Some, for example, are multigenerational political organizations where adults work alongside youth in apprenticeship-type relationships. In these settings, adults should be prepared for a cycle of modeling, coaching, and fading: this involves sharing strategies with youth while also listening and learning from young people as partners in social change. In organizations that are more apolitical or refrain from explicit political activisms, staff should be prepared to facilitate youth decision-making and planning; moreover, staff should not be afraid of situations where youth may “fail” in their campaigns - there is lots to learn from setbacks. – Dr. Ben Kirshner, University of Colorado, Boulder (From an interview published in Youth Civic Engagement and Activism in Expanded Learning Programs).

We asked some program leaders for advice on preparing staff to lead youth civic engagement and activism activities. Below are some of their responses. 

RYSE hosts three separate week-long staff development sessions annually, in addition to multiple training opportunities provided for all staff throughout the year. Training includes, but is not limited to: restorative justice, non-violent communication, adolescent brain development, lobbying rules for non-profits, gender justice, and more. RYSE leverages our partnerships with Power California Alliance and the YO! California Network, for additional training and capacity building support covering youth organizing, campaigns and integrated civic/voter engagement.” – Jamileh Ebrahimi, Youth Organizing Director, RYSE Youth Center


Staff co-participate in Teens Advocating for Civic Engagement (TACA) and the California School-Age Consortium (CALSAC) events to gain experience and receive professional development specific to civic engagement.” - Brad Lupien, Arc Experience


We train teens ages 15-19 in playful learning, facilitation, leadership, and other workplace skills for them to play and lead games with children on the Play Streets, at playgrounds and in early childcare centers throughout Philadelphia. Adults receive approximately 60-80 hours of preemployment training, including data collection training facilitated by Temple Infant & Child Play Lab.”- Rebecca Fabiano, FAB Youth Philly

4-H developed several program guides to support adult leaders:

  • True Leaders: Culture, Power, & Justice is designed to engage youth in critical dialogue and collective action in order to contribute to a more empathetic and just society. This is a Facilitator Guide intended for use with youth in Grades 6-12. Youth have an incredible opportunity to see the world as bigger than themselves. This curriculum offers dynamic opportunities for youth to explore their identities, different cultures, new perspectives, and the histories that have shaped power and privilege within our communities. 
  • Citizenship Adventure Curriculum is designed to engage youth in changing a piece of the public world, discovering the possibilities of democratic citizenship and building a commitment to taking action in new and exciting ways.” – Rebecca Kelley, 4-H


REMINDER! Giving Tuesday is tomorrow and The How Kids Learn Foundation is inviting you to participate. Whether you can give $5 or $5000, your gift will get HKLF closer to their goal to continue their work in 2022! To learn more and donate, click here.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Giving Our Thanks

By Sam Piha


We all know that 2021 has been a very difficult year. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, all of us at Temescal Associates and the How Kids Learn Foundation want to thank all of you who work with our young people to promote their positive development. We are grateful to be part of this community.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Civic Engagement and Activism in Afterschool Programs: Challenges and Tips

Source: 4-H

By Sam Piha

We are continuing to post a series of blogs to inform and encourage expanded learning programs to start today infusing civic engagement and activism in their afterschool program. NOTE: There are many program resources on the topic, some of which are detailed in our paper, Youth Civic Engagement and Activism in Expanded Learning Programs. You can view previous blogs from this series hereWe also conducted a webinar on this topic which can be viewed here.

In this blog, we hear from afterschool program leaders on the challenges they face when offering civic engagement and activism activities and share some tips to consider. 



Challenges Encountered – School districts are conservative when it comes to "lobbying", so we have to educate the local education agencies on the difference between lobbying and civic engagement. And encourage them to think more broadly.

Tips - Look for programs and processes that work and make sure to do professional development with line staff who are the kid magnets. They need to re-learn civics too! Look for programs that already exist and join in before trying to start something on your own. - Brad Lupien, ARC Experience




Challenges Encountered - Among the challenges are ensuring our team internally replicates the equitable and just practices we want to see in our schools, ensuring as few barriers as possible to participation. Other challenges include managing our real-world activities when our members are expected to be sitting in a classroom--and not navigating their communities--for most of the typical workday. And yet another challenge, (among many) is that while our work is highly collaborative in nature, the culture of most schools that our students are exposed to are highly competitive in nature. And because we define leadership as the ability to bring others along with you, our leaders (who serve without formal titles) are often overlooked by their own schools as accomplished assets. - Rachel Belin, Kentucky Student Voice Team


Challenges Encountered - These students are busy and have their time scheduled out with extracurricular activities and work. We had to limit how long our meetings were. There was so much more we wanted to do with them in this first year and couldn't cover it all. We'll make meetings short and more frequent next year.

Tips - We had two remarkable college students involved in the design of the program, and they were the direct contacts for the teams to connect and progress in their projects. That was a huge factor in this program's success. The college students had been in afterschool programs just a year prior, and their fresh perspectives were really valuable. - Julie Groll, ASAP Connect



Challenges Encountered - Staffing this year was a MAJOR challenge, for both adults and teens; inconsistent number of children that come out to the playground and playstreets make it hard for the teens to stay motivated; the heat can also decrease motivation. Fundraising can be a challenge because many see this as an expensive program. The program itself doesn't cost a ton and many things can be donated or can get sponsorship (like their uniforms/t-shirts); what does cost the most is the salaries. This is a workforce development program, so we invest in people. We have low staff/youth ratios, we pay above minimum wage, aiming to get our TEENS to $15/hr. within the next 3-5 years. They are currently paid $9/hr. and adult staff starts at $15-20/hr.

Tips - Plan, plan, plan and then be prepared to throw all of those plans out the window. This project relies on many partners and large systems, the more of those you have to interact with the more you have to rely on them. So, deadlines often get pushed, information often comes late, and so we end up grinding the two weeks before the teens start for training because finally all of the information we’ve been waiting on since MAY, comes through. Once the teens start training and then are on the Play Streets, just lean into it and have fun! - Rebecca Fabiano, FAB Youth Philly

To help others interested in this initiative, they published Play Captain Initiative: Start- Up and How- To Guide.  



Challenges Encountered - Youth conflicts can arise when there are passionate differences in opinions. It takes time to be thoughtful in setting up difficult conversations or lesson plans and activities. Many of the topics we cover center around identity and in recent years, we have seen responses to differences in our government and media to escalate into anger and violence. We have to help guide youth to see different ways to engage with someone they feel is acting in attack or dismissive.

Tips - Setting up a foundation of safety and support can provide intentional mechanisms for conflict resolution between youth. Provide as much space for youth to take on leadership roles and design programming. - Jenifer Hughes, Youth & Government, YMCA of San Francisco



Challenges Encountered - Black youth, particularly boys, are very underrepresented in our program and other programs like it. We need to figure out how to bring more young people to the table so that we are building leaders in every community.

Tips - Incorporating meaningful civic engagement opportunities into youth programming is so easy to do! The mechanisms for young people to engage with their elected leaders are the same for adults. Have them create a presentation for their community board, testify at a public hearing, call or write to their elected leaders, create a petition...these are such great projects for young people to do together and you can do so much related skill building as you go through the projects: public speaking, debate, consensus building, media literacy, etc. - Laura Jankstrom, YouthAction NYC



Challenges Encountered - Our expertise is in youth development and science education. Participants would benefit from more collaboration with experts in government and community organizing.

Tips - Youth seem to thrive when there is a clear purpose and overall framework in which they can make choices about what they are most excited to do and how they wish to do it. They are very creative -- give them the space and support to achieve their goals. - Laura Herszenhorn, California Academy of Sciences


We are hosting a webinar/ Speaker’s Forum on Wednesday, November 17, 2021 from 10:00am- 12:00pm (PST) entitled, Afterschool as a Teacher PathwayThe purpose of this webinar is to inform and encourage OST leaders on how best to develop/join and promote an afterschool to teacher pathway. It is our intention to capture and share valuable and intriguing ideas from educational and OST leaders. To learn more and register, click the banner below.

We have also released a new briefing paper on this topic, which can be viewed and downloaded here.



Throughout the month of November, we'll be promoting The How Kids Learn Foundation Giving Tuesday fundraiser. Why donate to The How Kids Learn Foundation? Because, since their launch, they’ve contributed so much to the afterschool field, including over 38 Speaker’s Forums; 82 educational videos, attracting 33,400+ views; 38 briefing papers and over 480 blog posts attracting 716,000+ views. Help HKLF continue their work in 2022. To learn more and donate, click here.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Civic Engagement and Activism in Afterschool Programs: An Interview with a Youth Development Researcher

Source: NHP Foundation

By Sam Piha

According to the Afterschool Alliance, “The afterschool field is an essential partner in ensuring that all children have the ability to participate in immersive, relevant, and hands-on civic engagement opportunities.” Not only are civic engagement strategies participatory strategies, they contribute to the positive development of youth and the health of our democracy.


Now I’m very confident in myself. I know that I can make changes. Sometimes I used to think that our lives were kind of pointless. And now, it’s like, you can make real changes. Now it’s the school and maybe in my career and my adult life, I could actually do something with a lot of determination and will.”  – Rosalinda, 12th grader 


We are continuing to post a series of blogs to inform and encourage expanded learning programs to start today infusing civic engagement and activism in their afterschool program. NOTE: There are many program resources on the topic, some of which are detailed in our paper, Youth Civic Engagement and Activism in Expanded Learning ProgramsYou can view previous blogs from this series here. You can also view a recent recording of our webinar we held on this topic here.

In this blog we interview a youth development researcher. Dr. Ben Kirshner is a Professor in the School of Education at University of Colorado, Boulder.  Ben's research examines youth organizing, critical participatory action research, and new forms of digital media as contexts for learning, development, and social change.

Dr. Ben Kirshner
Q: You have studied why youth activism and civic engagement are important avenues for youth development. Can you share some of your findings?

A: In my initial research I wanted to challenge dominant frameworks for youth civic engagement and community service, which were based on middle class and affluent assumptions about “service”, and were not capturing the kinds of community resilience and youth activism happening in communities of color. 

My research carried out with multiracial youth organizing groups in the Bay Area showed how youth participants developed a capacity for critique and collective agency to challenge unjust systems and negative stereotypes. These developmental achievements, it turned out, also spoke to unique elements of learning environments in youth organizing groups. Through peer to peer mentoring, apprenticeship learning, and commitments to young people’s dignity, these settings offer great promise for learning environments in and out of school.

Since then I’ve developed more strategic research collaborations with youth organizations and schools, in which we use research to understand and address compelling challenges jointly identified with youth or organization leaders. For example, I was part of a participatory action research team to study the impact of a high school closure on students, which showed students’ creative and resilient adaptations but also the stressors that displacement added to their lives. More recent work extended core findings about youth organizing groups as developmental settings and tested out their relevance for classroom learning in collaborative work with high school educators.

Q: How should we prepare staff to lead civic engagement and youth activism activities? 

A: Staff support for civic engagement and youth activism will look different across different kinds of organizations. Some, for example, are multigenerational political organizations where adults work alongside youth in apprenticeship-type relationships. In these settings, adults should be prepared for a cycle of modeling, coaching, and fading: this involves sharing strategies with youth while also listening and learning from young people as partners in social change. In organizations that are more apolitical or refrain from explicit political activisms, staff should be prepared to facilitate youth decision-making and planning; moreover, staff should not be afraid of situations where youth may “fail” in their campaigns - there is lots to learn from setbacks.

Q: What is the best age for these activities?

A: There is no best age. Elementary age children can participate in various forms of community-building and activism just as older youth can. Of course, as skilled youth workers will know, young people’s maturity levels may shape the kinds of roles played by staff and how they support youth voice and engagement.

Source: Play Captains Initiative

Q: Why do programs offer these activities and why do kids join?

A: Organizations that invite young people to participate in social change do so because they know that youth are key agents of making the world better; young people are agents of change throughout the world! Many organizing groups are motivated more by their desire to build power for social change than by the goal of offering a learning experience for youth. But, consistent with what we know about learning and development, young people end up learning a great deal by participating in social change movements. In other words, sometimes the best learning experiences are those that are not designed with learning as the primary aim. 

Q: What benefits do kids accrue?

A: Benefits really depend on the type of program you are talking about and who is participating. I have done research about youth organizing groups that engage young people of color growing up in economically distressed communities who are the targets of structural racism. In these settings, we have seen how youth benefit from the opportunity to a) reflect critically on the world — to ask questions and denaturalize what feels like “normal” by visiting neighboring communities and imagine radical futures and b) the opportunity to generate solutions through policies or public narratives. These experiences contribute to a sense of agency and belonging that prepares young people to navigate the world with confidence and critical analysis; in some cases it can also offer a context for “healing” that involves personal and social transformation.

Q: Please describe any challenges programs should be aware of.

A: I would say the biggest challenge has to do with preparing adults to share power and become skilled at the delicate dance of guidance of and deference to youth leaders - to act in solidarity with young people.

Q: Can you offer any tips to others?

A: For staff and leaders of programs, I think the first place to start is to get clear on what you are comfortable doing and getting behind; if you are inviting young people to participate in an activity, be prepared to act in solidarity with them as they pursue it. Be transparent about the premise of your activities with youth and what they are signing up for.


Dr. Ben Kirshner moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in his twenties, where he was a youth worker. These experiences motivated him to study educational equity and the design of learning environments, which he pursued at Stanford's Graduate School of Education. Ben is now a Professor in the School of Education at CU-Boulder and serves as Faculty Director for CU Engage: Center for Community-Based Learning and Research. In his work with CU Engage Ben supports programs and people who develop and sustain university-community research partnerships that address persistent public challenges guided by values of social justice and grassroots democracy. 

Ben's research examines youth organizing, critical participatory action research, and new forms of digital media as contexts for learning, development, and social change. His 2015 book, Youth Activism in an Era of Education Inequality, received the social policy award for best authored book from the Society of Research on Adolescence. Ben is Editor for the Information Age Press Series on Adolescence and Education. His new projects involve collaborations with youth organizing groups that use research to build organizational capacity and campaign strategy, and partnerships with school districts that promote transformative student voice.


We are hosting a webinar/ Speaker’s Forum on Wednesday, November 17, 2021 from 10:00am- 12:00pm (PST) entitled, Afterschool as a Teacher PathwayThe purpose of this webinar is to inform and encourage OST leaders on how best to develop/join and promote an afterschool to teacher pathway. It is our intention to capture and share valuable and intriguing ideas from educational and OST leaders. To learn more and register, click the banner below.

We have also released a new briefing paper on this topic, which can be viewed and downloaded here.




Throughout the month of November, we'll be promoting The How Kids Learn Foundation Giving Tuesday fundraiser. During the pandemic, HKLF made sure that youth workers could continue their professional development. They did this by quickly pivoting from face-to-face events to virtual/ online webinars. Help them continue to deliver quality professional development to your afterschool leaders in 2022. To learn more and donate, click here.


Monday, November 1, 2021

Civic Engagement and Activism in Afterschool Programs: An Interview with RYSE's Youth Organizing Director

Source: www.medium.com

By Sam Piha

According to the Afterschool Alliance, “The afterschool field is an essential partner in ensuring that all children have the ability to participate in immersive, relevant, and hands-on civic engagement opportunities.” Not only are civic engagement strategies participatory strategies, they contribute to the positive development of youth and the health of our democracy. 


Because young people often have the desire, energy and idealism to do something about the injustice they see in the world, they are powerful agents for change.” - Marianne Stenger, 10 Ways Authentic Learning Is Disrupting Education


We are continuing to post a series of blogs to inform and encourage expanded learning programs to start today infusing civic engagement and activism in their afterschool program. NOTE: There are many program resources on the topic, some of which are detailed in our paper, Youth Civic Engagement and Activism in Expanded Learning Programs. You can view previous blogs from this series here. You can also view a recent recording of our webinar we held on this topic here.

In this blog we interview the Youth Organizing Director from RYSE Youth Center. Jamileh Ebrahimi has been the Youth Organizing Director since 2012. In this role, she builds a vibrant youth organizing culture both at the Center and in the Richmond community.

Jamileh Ebrahimi
Q: Please describe your civic engagement/ activism activities (activity purpose, activity description and resources/ materials needed).

A: Over the past decade, RYSE has been reminding those in power that young people are paying attention to how the conditions in California and West Contra Costa County (WCCC) affect them and their families’ lives. RYSE leads mobilization work that builds youth leadership and works to pass progressive local and statewide legislation that positively impacts BIYOC (Black, Indigenous, Youth of Color).  RYSE's young people ages 13-21 engage in campaign planning, peer education, community outreach, narrative shifting and storytelling, voter/civic engagement (voter registration, phone banking and door-to-door canvassing) and local/statewide advocacy efforts. Youth organizing efforts target our city council, school district, criminal legal system, and local/statewide health, housing, education, and economic funding/policy decisions. 

RYSE is part of multiple coalitions with youth representatives in leadership roles locally and statewide that support our local civic education and voter mobilization/registration efforts. Partnerships currently held with youth justice organizations, school districts, education advocacy organizations, and civic mobilization organizations in the region build a shared understanding of the voter power ecosystem in Contra Costa County.

Q: How do you prepare staff to lead civic engagement and youth activism activities? 

A: RYSE hosts three separate week-long staff development sessions annually, in addition to multiple training opportunities provided for all staff throughout the year. Training includes, but is not limited to: restorative justice, non-violent communication, adolescent brain development, lobbying rules for non-profits, gender justice, and more. RYSE leverages our partnerships with Power California Alliance and the YO! California Network, for additional training and capacity building support covering youth organizing, campaigns and integrated civic/voter engagement.

Q: Who is the target audience for these activities?

A: RYSE serves young people, ages 13-21 and engages over 700 young people annually (98% identify as BIYOC, 14% LGBTQ, 75% low income), centering their experience and expertise. Our voter engagement activities target young voters, 18-34 years old.

Q: Why do you offer these activities and why do kids join?

A: Too often in communities like WCCC, where atmospheric violence and harmful health outcomes are prevalent, BIYOC are seen as deficits rather than assets to their communities. In contrast, RYSE views young people as capable of prioritizing what is needed for their lives and communities and of leading needed change efforts. WCCC is a region navigating ongoing disinvestment, particularly in neighborhoods where BIPOC families live. 

We seek to address the need for more young people in policy, electoral, and civic engagement spaces pushing for accountability in the decision-making processes that impact their lives. Youth-led and community-led framing of policy decisions can better ensure that daily, ongoing, and acute needs are met and reconciliatory practices are established to undo the exclusions and harms they and their communities have experienced.

Source: RYSE

Q: What benefits do kids accrue?

A: RYSE’s Theory of Liberation (ToL) works to transform systems so that BIYOC feel loved. It supports BIYOC’s leadership to spark community transformation on issues impacting their well-being. The ToL asserts RYSE’s values and principles, and guides our outcomes:

  • Youth have emotional, physical, and political safety to acquire tools, skills, and resources they need to understand and change inequities;
  • Youth feel loved with the emotional, physical and political safety to acquire the tools, skills and resources they need to understand and change inequities;
  • Young people construct their own narrative and those of their communities;
  • Systems transformation by youth committed to a platform for liberation in which cultural work and race are central;
  • Develop an expanded hub for youth movement building, power building, arts and culture, and protection against further displacement called RYSE Commons. 

Q: Please describe any challenges you encounter.

A: Last year, our voter and civic engagement activities were impacted due to the global pandemic. Traditional voter outreach efforts, like door-to-door canvassing, volunteer mobilizations, peer-to-peer voter (pre)registration and in-person community events, were limited. We were able to test out new virtual strategies with our Census outreach and education, including virtual phone banking and activities and events were primarily held virtually. We increase our online education efforts utilizing virtual workshops, social media and producing our first-ever voter guide developed by RYSE youth and staff. 

Q: Can you offer any tips to others?

A: Please read our statement - Solidarity with Black Youth Organizers: A Call to Adult Allies, for ways to show up for Black young people and young people of color to support their physical and political safety. For more information on our work or to schedule a tour, presentation or training, please contact: info@rysecenter.org.  

Jamileh Ebrahimi has been the Youth Organizing Director at RYSE Youth Center since 2012. As Youth Organizing Director, she builds a vibrant youth organizing culture both at the Center and in the Richmond community. Jamileh is deeply committed to education, organizing, organizational and community sustainability, and movement building, and through her 18+ years of community organizing, she has discovered the importance of community empowerment, healthy living, and justice. She works to ensure that young people serve as key stakeholders and decision-makers on issues and policies impacting their individual and collective health and well-being.

ABOUT RYSE: RYSE Youth Center creates safe spaces grounded in social justice for young people to love, learn, educate, heal and transform lives and communities. RYSE Youth Center was born out of a youth organizing movement initiated in 2000 in response to a string of homicides near Richmond High School. Students organized more than 1,500 youth and adult community members to address the lack of safety at school and in the community. Young people, local officials, and stakeholders partnered to comprehensively assess youth- identified priorities and solutions. RYSE had served over 5,000 youth members and reached 10,000 more through outreach, and community events in Richmond and West Contra Costa County. 


We are hosting a webinar/ Speaker’s Forum on Wednesday, November 17, 2021 from 10:00am- 12:00pm (PST) entitled, Afterschool as a Teacher PathwayThe purpose of this webinar is to inform and encourage OST leaders on how best to develop/join and promote an afterschool to teacher pathway. It is our intention to capture and share valuable and intriguing ideas from educational and OST leaders. To learn more and register, click the banner below.

We have also released a new briefing paper on this topic, which can be viewed and downloaded here.




Today marks the first day of our How Kids Learn Foundation Giving Tuesday fundraising campaign! Through November, we will be asking for donations to continue our work in 2022. To learn more and donate, click here.


Monday, October 25, 2021

Civic Engagement and Activism in Afterschool Programs: An Interview with a Youth Activist

Source: We the People (Netflix)

By Sam Piha

According to the Afterschool Alliance, “The afterschool field is an essential partner in ensuring that all children have the ability to participate in immersive, relevant, and hands-on civic engagement opportunities.” Not only are civic engagement strategies participatory strategies, they contribute to the positive development of youth and the health of our democracy. 


Not only do young people have the capacity to understand the world around them, they have the capacity to lead it.”
- Gabe Abdellatif, youth contributor and former trustee, America’s Promise Alliance 


We will post a series of blogs to inform and encourage expanded learning programs to start today infusing civic engagement and activism in their afterschool program. NOTE: There are many program resources on the topic, some of which are detailed in our paper, Youth Civic Engagement and Activism in Expanded Learning Programs. You can view previous blogs from this series here. You can also view a recent recording of our webinar on this topic here.



In this blog we interview a youth activist. Ann Guiam (she/they) is a 20 year old Filipinx youth, from San Pablo/Richmond, CA who currently works with RYSE Youth Center.

Ann Guiam
Q: How did you become active in social causes?

A: Growing up, I always hear about the social issues that have impacted my homeland, the Philippines, and further into the issues here in the US. I’ve joined programs and opportunities that have helped me expand my social justice awareness. During my sophomore year of high school, our school Richmond High, was one of the local high schools in our district to call on action regarding the election results in 2016. The impact and rage it created in my community showed me how powerful we can be to make a change. It wasn’t only adults, the majority of those who showed up and marched in the streets to city hall were youth. The unity I witnessed and experienced motivated me to seek opportunities where I can further see, hear, and be with my community to move into great changes.

In my junior year, I had the opportunity to take on “artivism” by crafting a quilt through the Social Justice Sewing Academy, touching on the issues of gun violence across the nation, by visualizing and questioning the “beauty” of this country, in spite of all the violence impacting the lives of people, majority being the BBIPOC community, both directly and indirectly, while honoring the lives harmed and lost. Later in the school year, the Richmond Youth Organizing Team internship of RYSE was introduced to students through outreach of our Youth Coordinator, Diana Diaz. After learning about this opportunity, I realized this is my time and opportunity to get more involved with social justice and community organizing. As of now, I have been involved with RYSE since April 2018, during which time I have become a youth intern, where I gained connections and a chosen family, with people who were also driven and empowered to be a voice for their community. Now as a staff member, I am a Youth Organizing Program Assistant at RYSE, continuing to be a radical youth and community organizer in Richmond. 

Q: What are you working on currently? 

A: Currently I am co-planning a summer internship opportunity for youth in Richmond, where they can have a collective space and they can learn and discuss the roots and values of abolition, while getting to know Richmond and creating a space for healing, culture and resilience. Youth also will have the opportunity to create their own transformative campaign and policy for local societal issues. 

Aside from this work, I am also part of the Youth Anti-Displacement, which is a cohort of Bay Area organizations who are currently working on projects to spread awareness on displacement currently happening in the Bay Area. 

Q: In your view, why is youth voice and youth activism important? 

A: Hearing, seeing, and feeling youth take action and step out, is one of the most beautiful things to witness in our existence. The power youth hold and deliver is one of the ingredients to liberation. Youth voices are important because we are loud and proud, we are straightforward and know what we want to change. The resilience youth have shown lately is the epiphany of youth power and activism. Youth activism involves actions and views that can be thought of as the alternative perspective to how others may approach certain issues. Youth voices cannot be lowered down because we find ways to be heard, youth are not afraid to stand up for others, and see things fall down. We know a lot of things that are happening will be in our hands until we grow old, we don't only look back at the past to change it anymore, now we make the present matter the most, for it will determine the future. 

Q: What advice do you have for afterschool programs who want to provide opportunities for youth to become civically engaged?

A: Encourage youth to decide and take action. Whether it is choosing topics to discuss, or choosing an activity set from their interest in social justice. Seek spaces where they will feel like they belong. Set opportunities where there can be workshops that help youth create their pathways to be involved through their own identities, culture, and challenges. Always acknowledge their own curiosity to things whether it's through their families, friends, schools or communities, where they can find involvement and awareness.

Q: What activities and issues do you think youth are most interested in?

A: Right now a lot of youth have been interested in learning more about issues on police brutality, racial injustice, environmental injustice, broken healthcare systems, along with other systemic issues; food insecurity, and more. Activities that can tie into these issues can be a workshop for Know Your Rights, learning about systems and how it leads to the Prison Industrial Complex, and more. Other activities can also include ways youth can develop leadership skills and individual skills they want to have or improve, anything that can support their growth and self-power. 

Q: Looking ahead, what are your plans for continuing your activism? 

A: I see myself getting more involved in my community, through RYSE and other opportunities that may come my way. Richmond or elsewhere, I will continue to walk with the movement locally happening, finding more ways to serve our youth, adults, and elders. Continuing to be resilient, be with community, seek and make change, keeping the radical fights alive, all through healing and transformative actions, until we reach the liberation our people deserve. 


Ann Guiam (she/they) is a 20 year old Filipinx youth, from San Pablo/Richmond, CA. She started as a youth intern at RYSE at the age of 16. By going through the leadership pipeline of being an intern to fellow, she is now a Youth Organizing Program Assistant at Richmond’s RYSE Youth Center. Ann centers radical organizing for social justice issues by expressing her leadership and diligence through community engagement, youth power advocacy, art (artivism/poetry), fighting against displacement, and more, all with love and solidarity.

ABOUT RYSE: RYSE Youth Center creates safe spaces grounded in social justice for young people to love, learn, educate, heal and transform lives and communities. RYSE Youth Center was born out of a youth organizing movement initiated in 2000 in response to a string of homicides near Richmond High School. Students organized more than 1,500 youth and adult community members to address the lack of safety at school and in the community. Young people, local officials, and stakeholders partnered to comprehensively assess youth- identified priorities and solutions. RYSE had served over 5,000 youth members and reached 10,000 more through outreach, and community events in Richmond and West Contra Costa County. 


We are hosting a webinar/ Speaker’s Forum on Wednesday, November 17, 2021 from 10:00am- 12:00pm (PST) entitled, Afterschool as a Teacher PathwayThe purpose of this webinar is to inform and encourage OST leaders on how best to develop/join and promote an afterschool to teacher pathway. It is our intention to capture and share valuable and intriguing ideas from educational and OST leaders. To learn more and register, click the banner below.

We have also released a new briefing paper on this topic, which can be viewed and downloaded here.



Civic Engagement and Activism in Afterschool Programs: The Importance of Program Staff

By Sam Piha We are continuing to post a series of blogs to inform and encourage expanded learning programs to start today infusing civic eng...