Young Adults Striving for Success (YASS)
Young people have always been involved, in some form, in the work of JJPL. Beyond its engagement with hundreds of children over the last decade through legal advocacy, JJPL has partnered with incarcerated children to produce the publication Ya Heard Me?, a collection of their writing and poetry, and hosted numerous events throughout the years targeted at engaging youth in different campaigns. In the last three years, however, JJPL has made the commitment to institute a permanent youth engagement project.
Launched in the fall of 2008, the twenty five core members of Young Adults Striving for Success (YASS) meet weekly to develop their leadership skills, to increase their knowledge on civic issues, and to participate in campaigns to improve their community, such as increased funding for recreation and improved security practices in the New Orleans schools. Their voices in New Orleans are desperately needed to ensure real opportunities for youth, and particularly low-income youth of color. YASS works to combat the negative media stereotypes of youth in the city, and instead to project positive examples of young people working to make real change.
The mission of YASS is to provide an open and positive space that allows youth to reach their full potential. The three goals of the group are to 1) foster leadership skills 2) to bring awareness to the issues that face youth in New Orleans and 3) to work as a collective internally and externally to bring about positive social change in our community.
In the past three years, YASS has:
- Organized a youth- led event called the Central City Youth Summit partnering with State Senator Cheryl Gray Evans and State Representative Walt Leger to engage in a dialogue on the issues impacting youth and public policy solutions. The event was attended by over 150 community members, generated positive media coverage of youth in New Orleans, and resulted in the publication of a set of policy recommendations generated by the summit;
- Wrote and recorded a song, as both an outreach tool to increase membership in the organization and to spread a positive message to their peers on how to achieve success in life, outside of the streets;
- Organized a Youth Summit attended by over 250 young people from all over the Gulf Coast, including Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, to learn how to make change in their community. A follow up to the first summit, this conference included a plenary from community leaders, local hip-hop performers, and workshops for the youth on issues including the History of the Juvenile Justice System, an Intergenerational Dialogue, and how youth can get involved in making change;
- Launched a campaign to improve security in the New Orleans public schools, with recommendations for a model policy on how to improve relationships between students and school resource officers to foster a more positive learning environment in the schools; and
- Partnered with four other youth organizations in the city of New Orleans to form Power of a Million Minds (POMM), a city-wide collaborative for youth to demonstrate greater leadership in the future of New Orleans.
YASS has partnered with four other youth organizations with comparable missions, to form the New Orleans Youth Organizing Collaborative, or Power of a Million Minds (POMM). Founded three years ago, POMM is a city-wide coalition of youth organizations who work collectively to amplify the power and voices of youth in New Orleans, as well as to bridge divisions of race, ethnicity, class and neighborhood. While JJPL headquarters the coalition, it is an equal partner with the other four organizations, whose members include: Fyre Youth Squad (FYS), Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association (VAYLA), Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools (Rethink), and LatiNOLA Youth Leadership Council (LYLC).
The New Orleans youth organizing collaborative, POMM, continues to expand the membership of our collaboration, both through our respective organizations and through our engagement with other community partners over time, to develop the structure of POMM, and to amplify the impact that we have on policy change in New Orleans as well as youth leadership in the city overall. POMM is expanding the number of youth participating in collaborative events and meetings, increasing our formal partnerships with other organizations and coalitions in the city, and is also developing a POMM platform, with a pro-youth agenda inclusive of the policy recommendations that each of our organizations is focused on for the city of New Orleans as a whole, as well as our collective goals for educational equity.
Using this platform as a tool, we are collaborating on several campaign focused events, highlighting different components of the POMM platform and with leadership provided by alternating members, as well as to host city-wide youth events, including a summit bringing together youth from across New Orleans to participate in civic engagement and public actions, advancing the POMM platform overall.
For more information please contact Miguel Nunez