How these 15 Youth-Led Projects are Changing California

Youth in California are reviving traditional cultural roots while deeply strengthening their communities. They are collectively preserving the integrity of traditional healing food and environmental practices, and building up the voice and leadership of youth in their communities.

These young visionaries, organizers and dreamers are all recipients of seed grants from the Pollination Project’s Youth Rising Program, established in 2016 in partnership with the California Endowment. Youth Rising Program grants channel much needed financial resources to uplift youth-led, early-stage projects that generate sustainability, healing, justice and wellness for these times of economic, cultural, and environmental crisis in our state and country.

The 15 projects below are all led by innovative young visionaries. Through a powerful sense of self-agency and community resistance, these youth change-makers are resisting injustice, empowering young people, and reviving traditional cultural practices.

Genevieve Angelica Mossey and Juan Garcia, Semillas Project, Salinas, CA. Genevieve Angelica Mossey and Juan Garcia believe that communities should feel empowered to challenge structural inequalities that negatively impact their health and well-being in the places they live, work and play. The Semillas Project uses organic juicing, English classes and community art to help raise awareness and create a positive outlet for community expression.

Kamani Holmes, The Re-Entry Guide, Oakland, CA. Kamani Holmes provides incarcerated people with a publication that addresses issues such as gentrification, unemployment and education with the guidance and support required for an intentional re-entry process. Kamani Holmes believes that in order to decrease recidivism, we must first increase awareness. The project will use various art mediums, including photography, poetry and storytelling.

Daisy Ozim and Carina Simms, Resilient Wellness, San Francisco, CA. The mission of Resilient Wellness is to end multigenerational trauma and advance holistic health through policy advocacy, health education and service delivery. Resilient Wellness has recently been appointed to the California State Preconception Health Council.

Carlos Lemus, Promoting and Giving the Monarch Butterfly and Other Pollinators a Helping Hand, Reedley, CA. Carlos Lemus works alongside youth to develop awareness campaigns, create safe sanctuary for monarchs, and beautify communities through his project, Promoting and Giving the Monarch Butterfly and Other Pollinators a Helping Hand. Activities include outreach and community presentations led by volunteers.

Brayan Cruz, Native Seed Bank, Riverside, CA. After observing the City of Riverside’s lack of food security and the need to increase accessibility of healthy foods, Brayan Cruz started the Native Seed Bank project to preserve and conserve seeds in the region and to promote the revitalization of culture and tradition. The project will store seasonal, heirloom, herb and heritage seeds in the Native American Student Center, and will give community members the tools, space and educational resources needed to grow the seeds themselves.

David Robles, The Evolutionary Music Project, Santa Cruz, CA . The Evolutionary Music Project is a project aimed at using the arts and music to facilitate collaboration between community organizations in and around the region of Santa Cruz. The Project involves creating a compilation album with youth from various Santa Cruz/ Bay Area youth empowerment programs.

Nora Ramirez, Oaxaqueno Youth Encuentro, Fresno, CA. The Oaxaqueño Youth Encuentro (OYE) is a 3 day statewide youth conference that will bring together 120 youth from the indigenous and Afro indigenous communities of the state of Oaxaca, specifically youths from the Mixtec, Zapotec, Triqui, and Chatino communities. This unique conference will provide a safe space where indigenous youths can come together to decolonize their minds and reconnect with their indigenous identity.

Nicholas Yiu and Matt Hong, Mixathon48, Fremont, CA. Mixathon48 is dedicated to making music technology education accessible to everyone and revolutionizing how music is taught today. To date, Mixathon48 has organized 3 music production marathons reaching over 600 participants in 65 countries, and will soon host workshops at elementary and middle schools in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Jessica Candela, Butte County Youth Advisory Council, Chico, CA. The Youth Advisory Council (YAC) is a group of young people in Butte County under the age of 25 who have experienced difficult life circumstances such as homelessness, foster care, incarceration, or poverty. The YAC partners with local organizations to ensure youth voice is included in developing appropriate resources and programs.

Bree Jones, Hands4Ears, Gardena, CA. Ninety percent of Deaf individuals are born to hearing families who never learn American Sign Language, resulting in limited, and in most cases, no communication in the home. Hands4Ears serves the Deaf Community by working to merge the Deaf and the Hearing worlds together

Azelya Yazzie, Community Garden Native Youth Outreach Project, San Diego, CA. Azelya Yazzie’s outreach project focuses on helping Native American youth learn how to grow and cook their own traditional foods through a collaboration with different Native American tribes and youth centers. Native youth will learn how important their traditional foods and medicines are, and become more knowledgeable and more exposed to growing and cooking resources.

Jhyre S Alvarado, Teen Talk Youth Enrichment Program, Los Angeles, CA. Teen Talk is an after school enrichment program that focuses on skill development, conflict resolution, and self-reflection. It allows for youth in underprivileged communities to learn how to thrive on limited resources, and it provides access to many different kinds of social services.

Justin Kalolo, Le Aumaga, Santa Ana, CA. Le Aumaga’s mission is to support the development of self-sufficient, self-reliant, and village-oriented young Samoan men within the low-income neighborhoods of the San Bernadino, Orange and Los Angeles Counties. The program provides peer mentoring, intentional bi-weekly gatherings, culture-based workshops, and also serves the youth’s basic needs.

Kamiko Adams, “My Voice Matters” Thru Performing Arts, Los Angeles, CA. “My Voice Matters” Thru Performing Arts, is an event that brings Performing arts opportunities to youth with disabilities to help them with their learning process. KaMiko Adams found that dance, music, arts, singing, gymnastics and drama tremendously helped her learning as she was dealing with an auditory processing disability (which was finally diagnosed in 2014). KaMiko is excited to bring performance arts as a vehicle for learning and growth.

Diana Renteria, Salinas In 20 Years, Salinas, CA. “Salinas in Twenty-Years” is a portable mural made by students at Roosevelt Elementary, featuring the dreams and visions of how the youth wish to see their town develop peacefully. Diana Renteria, the Coordinator of the project and an artist herself, is committed to creating spaces for youth to cultivate their creative expression. Her vision is that our society honors art as a critical element to education and leadership development.

We welcome these new grantees to the Pollination Project global family and look forward to seeing how these projects grow.

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.