Youth Organizing

Youth Organizing Council

OKF launched a Youth Organizing Council (YOC) in 2018 as an advanced leadership and organizing program to build power for low-income students of color. YOC recruits youth with previous program experience to represent their school community in city and district-wide campaigns to improve educational equity for tens of thousands of students across the district.

YOC centers the voice of students in shared decision-making for program activities and campaign development, and empowers youth to directly influence policies, budgets or democratic processes that affect their experiences in school.

Student organizers in YOC are stipended to meet weekly on Wednesdays and participate in a summer youth organizing institute. YOC organizers also spend time speaking at OUSD School Board meetings, meeting with City Council members or other elected officials and collaborating in partnership with the Oakland Youth Vote (OYV) Coalition and other student organizers in the OYV Core Leader Committee.

Students protesting for better schools

Campaign Focus

After researching how voting rights could be won, youth organizers co-authored a youth vote policy that was voted on by Oakland City Council in May 2020, passing with 100% of the council voting in support. This advanced Oakland Youth Vote for a public vote as Ballot Measure QQ in the November 2020 election, which made history passing with 67% of the vote.

Once implemented, Oakland Youth Vote will empower 16 and 17 year-olds to hold those who run their school system accountable while also building an onramp to broader democratic participation for youth of color. After months of applying pressure, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors finally directed The Registrar of Voters to implement Oakland Youth Vote by the 2024 election!

YOC is organizing to ensure youth will be able to vote by the next round of board elections in 2024.

Schools Represented in YOC

  • Castlemont
  • Fremont
  • Oakland High School
  • Oakland Tech
  • Skyline

Reach Out to US

Interested in joining YOC? Please contact

Learn more about the Oakland Youth Vote campaign and coalition here.

Group photo of youth

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Skills Gained


Public speaking


Problem solving


Collaborating with other youth

"YOC has given me my ability to lead, learn, communicate, understand, and teach the basis for political organizing to youth and has connected me with some of the most caring coordinators and adult allies."
Image of Ixchel Arista
Ixchel Arista
YOC Participant
"After YOC I feel strong and confident in sharing knowledge as well as fighting and speaking up for what’s right and what our communities need."
Image of Amaya Lopez
Amaya Lopez
YOC Participant
Image of Senayt Sium

Senayt Sium


(She/Her/Hers) is a Program Coordinator for REAL HARD and facilitates after school programs at Oakland Tech and Oakland High School. She attended OUSD public school and is a proud alumni of Oakland High School. Senayt is a first generation college graduate from University of California, Davis in Sociology with concentration in Law and Society, Public Health Science and Chicano/a Studies. One of her key passions is advocacy. She strongly believes in addressing and combating systemic issues that affect marginalized communities.

She strives to empower and support youth in developing essential skills while fostering activism. As a former REAL HARD student organizer, Senayt is very excited to be working with youth, and provide them with the necessary resources to support and help them accomplish their goals.

Peter Truong

Peter Truong


Peter (he/him/his) supports staff across OKF programs to incorporate best practices in positive youth development. Peter oversees the REAL HARD after school program and supports all chapters to develop youth-led transformational school culture campaigns.

Peter also writes curriculum for Oakland Kids First programs and supports organization-wide youth organizing campaigns such as development of the Student Justice Platform. A life long learner and educator, Peter earned a degree in Ethnic Studies at the University of Oregon.

Cara Holiday

Cara Holiday


Cara (she/her/hers) is the Senior Development Manager who oversees fundraising, communications, grant writing and reporting and also serves on the senior management team. She has been part of the OKF community since 2009 in a range of roles including volunteering as a board member from 2009-2012, and then working on staff.

Cara currently works for OKF remotely from her hometown of St. Louis, MO. Throughout her career, Cara has focused on supporting students to reach their individual goals to graduate and access post-secondary education while also advocating to improve systems and equity in public schools. She earned a MA in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership Studies from Stanford University, a teaching credential from San Francisco State University, and a BA in English from Washington University in St. Louis.

Previous positions include working as Assistant Director at the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement at Washington University, as a Community Programs Manager for Alternatives in Action and as an English teacher on the McClymonds high school campus in OUSD. In her free time, Cara enjoys hiking with her family and two dogs, and exploring the local food scene.