Youth Organizing Council (YOC) champions justice for young people in Oakland. Founded by Oakland Kids First in 2018, YOC now convenes 15 student leaders with previous program experience from each of our school sites during the summer and weekly during the school year.
The Youth Organizing Council builds student power, offers intensive leadership development and youth organizing support, and teaches leadership skills to champion justice and educational equity for low-income, marginalized students in Oakland. The YOC cultivates a unified base of youth leaders, alumni, adult allies, and partner organizations to shift conditions in schools and advance equity for students by addressing city-wide or district-wide educational equity challenges.
YOC develops students’ abilities to develop issue expertise and organizing skills, and supports participants to conduct community needs assessments, research issues or policies impacting low-income students of color, learn about past social movements and organizing campaigns, develop campaign plans, and advocate for citywide or district-wide changes to better serve youth in Oakland.
Through the Youth Organizing Council, Oakland Kids First is building student power to increase equity for the most marginalized students in OUSD, and is supporting young people to analyze and solve regional challenges by advancing and implementing innovative solutions.
Youth organizers have spent this past year conducting tireless research, meeting with City Council and School Board members, co-authoring the Oakland Youth Vote resolution with Council President Rebecca Kaplan, and building coalitions with student leaders and adult allies from OUSD’s All City Council student union, J4OS, and a coalition of community based organizations.
Oakland Youth Vote is a campaign to expand the voting age in Oakland School Board elections to include eligible 16 and 17-year-old voters. Through Oakland Youth Vote, over 8,000 additional voters will be able to participate in school board elections, and youth who are often marginalized will have direct civic agency to select school board representatives and hold policy-makers accountable to addressing their needs. Youth also have immense experiential expertise regarding our school system and this effort will increase OUSD’s accountability to their primary constituency – students.
In the past, YOC successfully organized the reinstatement of OUSD’s free supper program that offers after school meals to 3,700 low-income students daily. REAL HARD students launched a “Free Supper for Hungry Minds” campaign, and advocated with OUSD School Board members and the OUSD Office of the Superintendent to continue the program after funding was cut. Then the Youth Organizing Council leaders made the win sustainable by partnering with the Superintendent’s Office to develop a proposal, present it to the Measure HH community advisory board, and advocate at Oakland City Council meetings to advance the proposal. In the end, the youth leaders secured $3.6 million to fund the free supper program and help OUSD to complete their central kitchen, ensuring free nutritious food remains available to students most in need.