An open letter from the Executive Director of Youth United for Change in response to mistreatment YUC youth leaders suffered at the hands of Philadelphia School District officers on October 16th, 2014.
Youth United for Change (YUC) is a youth-led, democratic organization made up of youth of color and working class communities, with the “people” and political power to hold school officials and government accountable to meeting the educational needs of Philadelphia public school students. This is done through a process of school/community-based organizing where a diverse group of youth come together, identify common concerns in their schools/community and act collectively on their own behalf to create strategies for whole school reforms in the Philadelphia Public School System that better meet the needs of youth of color and working class communities. YUC believes that every young person deserves a quality public education that prepares him or her for success at a 4-year university, for a living wage job, and for active participation in civic life.
YUC was founded in 1991 by a group of youth and adults from a drug prevention program of a larger youth-servicing agency. Together, the group explored root causes of drug abuse in their community, including the lack of meaningful educational and vocational opportunities for youth. In 1997, “Youth United for Change” was created and began organizing high school students through chapters in their schools to demand improvements and quality public education. Currently, YUC has Chapters in Edison, Kensington Education Complex (Business, Culinary Arts, and Creative and Performing Arts), ASPIRA Olney Charter School, a city wide chapter that welcomes students from other local High Schools and has a sixth chapter made of young people who have been “pushed out” (dropped out) of the Public School system.
YUC has always followed a very specific school-based model of youth organizing; meaning students are organized through Chapters in their schools. Chapters, gain input from the general membership and the larger student body through listening campaigns. As a result of the listening campaign, YUC members identify specific issues, conduct research into the issues, develop and implement a strategy to address the issues, and hold public actions or meetings where a person in power publicly agrees to meet their demands. Our strategies around outreach, recruitment and retention have shifted to better meet the emotional and intellectual needs of the young people coming into our City Wide and Pushed Out Chapters which are not school based.
In YUC, we believe organizing for racial justice is two pronged. Leadership development/youth development must happen at the same time the technical aspects to organizing are happening. We do this by intentionally making time throughout the year where young people come and study the history of movements, how their racial, gender or cultural identities impact the individual and society as a whole, etc…