Our Tomorrow’s Youth in Power focuses on research, policy and funding this summer

When young people develop their leadership skills, they are empowered to make their voices heard.

Our Tomorrow’s Youth in Power 2021, a three-track leadership skill-building series for young people ages 14-19, takes the concept of youth empowerment to the next level by establishing programs based on the key principles of research, policy and funding.

Our Tomorrow leaders began a Youth Participatory Action Research in June with 10 participants leading a research project on summer melt, defined as when high school seniors are accepted into college and do not enroll.

In July, Our Tomorrow will host its annual Policy Institute with an expected 50 participants spending a week learning about policy, advocacy, data and other ways to use their voice.

At the same time, Our Tomorrow is working with the San Antonio Area Foundation to start a Youth Grants Committee, an opportunity for young people who are interested in philanthropy and aligning investments into youth-serving organizations and programs.

Why is this important?
As UP Partnership progresses through its Citywide Planning for a Future Ready Bexar County process, keeping youth voice at the center is priority.

“We are creating spaces and platforms to help build on the voices and power young people already have,” said Leroy Adams, UP Partnership’s Senior Manager of Youth Voice.

Finally, the Youth Grants Committee’s focus will help young people be part of the funding alignment process, ensuring that youth voices are heard.

Digging Deeper
Though Our Tomorrow’s 2021 opportunities each have a unique focus—all center on ensuring young people have a voice in the decisions that will affect them well into their future. Here’s a deeper look at each of the programs and how they tie into UP Partnership’s overarching mission:

  • Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR)
    This research program gives 10 juniors and seniors from across Bexar County the opportunity to work with Dr. Van Lac, a YPAR scholar. These students will be trained and supported as they focus on research around the phenomenon of “summer melt.” Their findings will be recorded in a best practice guide and results recording that will both be shared with UP Partnership’s Equitable Enrollment Collaborative in the fall. EEC participants will use these tools to guide their enrollment strategies. 
  • Policy Institute
    The 2021 Policy Institute, which is in its third year, allows young people and community leaders to engage on a deeper level to make a tangible impact in local politics.
    The Policy Institute will be held July 19-24 and focuses on policy, advocacy and data.
  • Youth Grant Committee (YGC)
    This initiative will offer high school students the opportunity to turn their ideas into action by determining how $40,000 in grants will be distributed. Working alongside leaders from the San Antonio Area Foundation (SAAFDN), students will receive training in philanthropy, reviewing grant applications, and consensus decision making.

What’s next
Our Tomorrow youth leaders are also part of new arts-centered initiatives, including a newly-launched podcast called Youth Voices and a student-led art exhibit in the fall called “WE ARE NOW”—both done in collaboration with Say Sí.

– By Paulina Sosa