Youth Voice for Building Community Power

Youth Interns Grad

Juntos interns and Promotor graduates, from left to right, Irisa Montañez, Montana Contreras, Luzero Velasquez, Robin Carreon, Diana Salcido (not pictured Melani Alonzo Pasqual Pino). Luzero and Diana were honored on the Senate floor during the 2016 legislative session for their artwork and essay, respectively, in celebration of Anti-Racism Day. Photo by Mavel Photography

The start of 2016 brought major change to Juntos, which included a youth internship from December through March.

In the short amount of time that the youth spent at Juntos, we noted a great shift in who was showing up at Juntos and how we were doing our work. Through this program, Juntos was able to train and organize with Latino youth and encourage greater outreach in the West- gate, South Valley, International District and East San Jose neighborhoods.

At the beginning of the internship, most of the interns had very limited experience in organizing. The terminology was completely unfamiliar and the actions were very intimidating. In the twelve weeks that the interns worked with Juntos, they completed our Promotores training, a tool that we use to educate community leaders about social justice and organizing around issues in their daily lives. Youth organizers at Juntos phonebanked, canvassed, door-knocked, facilitat- ed house meetings, prepared and facilitated events, tabled, attended community meetings, participated in community marches, did outreach to community, advocated at the state legislature, engaged in “artivism” (the act of advocating for or against an issue through art) and completed various other activities.

During the internship, Latino youth developed not only as individual leaders but also collectively. We provided these young people with an opportunity for leadership

development and encouraged the sharing of stories and what the community needs. As a grassroots program, we built a stronger stra- tegic plan for Juntos in the upcoming year based on what our leaders shared with us. The youth interns successfully challenged the injustices they experience head-on, through leading workshops and participating in Juntos’ various events.

Our team of six interns were instrumental in starting the Juntos Youth Committee and have successfully run biweekly meetings since January. They have also learned about the Clean Power Plan, enough to both teach others and to understand how it can be improved so that it will truly protect our communities. The youth interns and other youth leaders have begun to organize the People’s Clean Power Plan (PCPP). The PCPP will reflect what the community wants to see in New Mexico’s implementation of the Clean Power Plan. Youth understand the connection between our energy choices and how the quality of our air and water are key to sustaining healthy families. The youth have made progress in developing a work plan and strategies to engage other youth leaders in the community around the PCPP.

Though the internship has ended, three youth organizers will continue with Juntos to move forward with our Youth Committee and organizing, inevitably shifting direction in youth leadership in furthering the PCPP. These three Latino youth come from the South Valley and East San Jose neighborhoods in Albuquerque – communities that are notoriously underserved and under-recognized.

Already, we have seen significant growth in the direction of the committee as youth have used tools such as “artivism” – making banners and “seed bombs,” (compressed bundles of soil and seeds) and have drafted their own agendas. It is our belief that the contribution of the youth voice within Juntos is essential and we expect that we’ll see continued success with these and other young leaders who can drive the effort forward.