Vote

Countdown to Election Day!

Vote

by Lashon Amado, OYUnited | November 1, 2018

The 2018 midterm election takes place on November 6, 2018 –  less than a week away.  Our country needs you to SHOW UP! to the polls on that day and have your voice heard. All 435 seats in the federal government’s House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be up for election! In addition, there are state, local, and tribal elections happening. There is a lot at stake! There is a lot of opportunity to elect leaders who truly represent our communities and our issues.

LET US BE SEEN AND HEARD!

One thing is for sure: if young people from low-income communities do NOT show up at the polls, the elected officials will NOT take our issues seriously.  LET US BE SEEN AND HEARD!   We want to increase opportunity and decrease poverty in America, throughout urban, rural, and tribal communities.  We want respect and inclusion for Black, White, Latinx, Native American, Asian, and mixed race people, and for people of all ethnicities, gender identities and religious faiths.   We want decent pay, affordable housing, good education, and safety for all.

We have seen the power of the vote in states like Massachusetts, where voters elected four women of color in the primaries to become their parties’ candidates for federal, state, and local offices. One of the candidates, Ayanna Pressley, an African-American candidate for Congress, made history by bringing out four times the number of voters who came out in the last mid-term primary.  As a result, she will become the first African American woman Congresswoman from Massachusetts, because she has no opponent on November 6.

There are also 157 ballot measures to be voted on in 34 states. The ballot measures cover a wide-range of important issues like redistricting reform, voting rights, affordable housing, minimum wage, marijuana, health care, and taxes.

Young voters are expected to turn out at record-breaking levels in the midterm elections! Make sure you take part in making history and encourage your family and peers to do the same. We need all hands on deck.

So get ready: Mark your calendars, arrange your rides, work out your work schedules, talk to your friends and family, research your candidates, and find your babysitters. Actually – bring the kids with you! It is important that they witness their parents stand up and use their power.

Here are some resources to help.

Tools to Be an Informed Voter

  • BallotReady: If you are unsure of who to vote for or undecided on any of the referendums/ballot measures, our partners at  BallotReady offer a digital voter guide and a “make a plan to vote” tool. BallotReady also has background information for every candidate and referendum on your personal ballot, allows you to compare candidates based on their stances on issues, biography, and endorsements and save your choices as you go. All you have to do is visit their website and enter your zip code.
  • Use Rock the Vote to Find Your Polling Location: If you are unsure of where to vote, you may visit the website of our partners at Rock the Vote to find your polling location . All you have to do is enter your home address. You can also visit their Know You Rights Tool to learn more about your state’s law on ID requirements, voting rights for returning citizens, pre-registration, and more.
  • Use Vote.org to see if you can take advantage of early voting: 37 states, including the District of Columbia, now let citizens vote ahead of Election Day. Early voting makes it easier to vote. You can avoid long lines on Election Day and pick a time that’s more convenient for you. Vote.org will let you know if your state allows early voting (click here to go directly to that feature).

Get Inspired!

Still wondering if your vote matters? Click here to watch some inspiring videos from some of our members sharing their opinion on the importance of voting.

Celebrate!

Our Community Action Teams (CAT) have done diligent nonpartisan voter registration and GOTV work across the country.  Here are some photos from our CAT in Greenville, Mississippi, who did canvassing in the community and transported the elderly and disabled to the polls for early voting. In the photos above, you will witness a 97-year-old resident getting registered for the first time! We are making history!

CATsvote

 

________________________________

LASHONLashon Amado is the National Coordinator of Community Action Teams with Opportunity Youth United. He is an alum of the YouthBuild program in Brockton, MA and is working on his Masters in Nonprofit Management at Northeastern University (Boston, MA). His passion for social justice stems from his experience as a young man growing up in a low-income community where he faced many challenges himself. Lashon feels obligated to give back and help drive change for disadvantaged populations who face similar obstacles and feel they do not have a platform to have their issues heard.

 

Tides of Progress: The One-Year Anniversary of the Reconnecting Youth Campaign

by Adam Strong, OYUnited National Council Member

On September 26th, 2018, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Reconnecting Youth Campaign – a national campaign calling on Congress to invest in America’s future by funding education, training, national service and employment opportunities for one million Opportunity Youth (young people ages 16 to 24 who are not in school and not working). This in-person meeting not only marked one year since our launch, but it also gave us a moment to celebrate our significant success. I felt proud to report out with my colleagues that the fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget had a $118 million dollar increase in funding for programs that serve Opportunity Youth from FY2017 levels.

In a time when most thought it would be impossible for an appropriations campaign to have any success, we defied the odds. We showed that when we stand united, we can create the political will to make the investments that our country desperately needs. Every time we met we asked ourselves who is in the room, and who else needs to be.

To ensure that each of the 4.6 million Opportunity Youth in our country have a bridge to education, career, or national service opportunities, we knew we had to grow; we had to reach beyond our capacity at every level. We needed everyone. With each passing month, the campaign grew.

As a result, when we circulated our letter calling on the Congressional Appropriations Committee to increase funding for the federal programs serving Opportunity Youth, more than 50 organizations from across the country signed on.

In this first year, our quarterly in-person campaign meetings represented our membership’s commitment: we always had a full house. One of my favorite parts of our meetings is the “State of the Issues Policy & Messaging Fair,” an opportunity to get updates from many of the systems that affect Opportunity Youth, from criminal justice system, immigration, and homelessness, to safety net programming, apprenticeships, and child welfare. It is always fantastic to be able to hear and interact with experts in their respective fields in small groups.

Doing More Than Defending Against Cuts

As a campaign, we have been through a lot together. When we were in the early planning stages, I remember we had tough conversations with some of our colleagues about our goal. Some thought our ask was too high, too “aspirational,” especially in our current political climate. Many of the budgets coming out of the executive office called for cuts and even eliminations to some of our programs. We knew that if we really wanted to provide pathways to opportunity for Opportunity Youth, we had to have the audacity to try. We had to stand up and advocate for our communities, and that is what we did. Coming into our one-year anniversary we had almost 40 meetings with congressional staff, and our passion for the work didn’t stop us from having nearly a dozen more meetings later that afternoon. We were pleased that Members of Congress circulated a bipartisan “Dear Colleague” letter asking colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to increase funds for effective programs.

Our tenacity paid off, and two days later, a Labor, Health, and Human Services (Labor HHS) appropriation bill was signed into law that provides a $210 million dollar increase in funding for programs that serve Opportunity Youth in FY19 from FY17 levels.

Since the campaign has started, we have seen a $329 million dollar increase in funding for programs that serve Opportunity Youth!

The Reconnecting Youth Campaign is proud of our collective efforts to educate Members of Congress about the vast potential of Opportunity Youth and how every $1 invested in helping a young person reconnect yields more than a $5 return on investment. Investing in our youth is the best possible investment we could make. Reaching out and securing bipartisan champions to support key investments has been crucial.

While we have come a long way in our first year, we continue to work toward a more significant investment that would reconnect 1 million young people per year to education, careers, and service opportunities. We have much work to do in FY2020, but together we are making the difference.

To learn more about the Reconnecting Youth Campaign, click here.

 

_________________________________________

 

adam
Adam Strong
is a founding member of OYUnited and member of OYUnited’s National Council of Young Leaders. A passionate advocate and lifelong learner, he has six years of experience in national policy advocacy, using his skills in policy analysis and communication & strategy he aims to influence policymakers to implement policies that increase economic mobility and decrease poverty in America. More from Adam.

NVRlogo2

#OYUvotes: National Voter Registration Day Challenge

NVRD-register!September 25 is National Voter Registration Day. Your voice matters, your vote matters and not just during presidential elections. This November, be sure to go to the polls.

OYUnited is hosting a voter registration challenge. Be sure you’re registered, and then urge your peers to register on or before September 25.

Here’s how to get involved:

    • First, are you registered and ready? Use our tool, in partnership with TurboVote, here.
    • Why do you vote? Why does it matter to you? Make a short video, image/meme or social media post and share it with the hashtags:  #OYUvotes and #NationalVoterRegistrationDay (bonus: add a hashtag for your city or town!). Be sure to include these tags so we and our partners can help amplify your post.
    • Check out Nonprofit Vote’s resource page to get the info and deadlines for Voting in Your State.
    • Questions? You can call 866-OUR-VOTE to get local information and answers to your questions (or visit the ElectionProtection.org site).

Share this with your friends and networks! Use our NVRD social media toolkit to spread the word.

YouthPOwer

Bringing Youth Power to Polls at the #YouthPower2018 Summit

youthpower

by Adam Strong, OYUnited National Council of Young Leaders

August 10, 2018 – It was a hot California day, with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees, but the high temperatures would not dissuade over 300 young changemakers from across the state of California from descending on the University of California Davis campus for the 2018 Youth Power Summit, hosted by PolicyLink in partnership with the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color and numerous local partners (see the full list here).

The purpose of the event was to strengthen youth movements across California by bringing young activists together for a three-day weekend to hone their skills, share best practices, and build community while they advocate for a better future for all Californians.

With the focus on building youth-led movements, Opportunity Youth United, of course, was there in force with our Los Angelos, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Oakland Community Action Teams (CATs) in attendance.

Their Saturday started on a high note during the regional breakout sessions focused on quality education throughout California. The young leaders split into groups by region to identify problems in their local schools, brainstorm solutions, and recognize their local decision-makers active on the specific issues. The workshop seamlessly built a sense of community across the state as young leaders began to see the common threads across their communities.

OYU at Youth Power Summit

 

Asking Questions of Candidates

As the day progressed into the afternoon, the nonpartisan Superintendent Candidate Forum went into full swing as the two leading candidates for the office of California Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond and Marshall Tuck, faced off and answered questions from the moderator and from a group of the young leaders.

youth power

Young people ask the candidates questions during the forum.

In addition, with a little bit of coaxing behind the scenes, we were able to arrange for representatives from our California youth-led CATs to interview the candidates in a small informal group. Both candidates were gracious enough to accept, allowing the OYUnited CAT leaders over 30 minutes of uninterrupted conversation.

The California OYUnited members showed up, stood up, and spoke up about real problems their school systems were facing and asked important questions. California has more than 6 million public school students; the Superintendent selected in November’s election will lead the country’s largest and most racially diverse school system. Both candidates were prepared to address the issues and gave thoughtful responses to each question.

Meeting with Elected Officials

Sunday was another action-packed day as the young leaders prepared for over 100 legislative meetings in total at the California State Capitol in Sacramento. The first part of the preparation was the young leaders learning about the nine bills that were identified by their organizations as good bills to support heading into the summit. Each participant chose a system they were passionate about — for example, police accountability, transparency, education or workforce issues. They then learned about the bills identified in those sectors: what the bills propose, the problems they were designed to address, and the talking points and messaging for each bill.

After these workshops, the young people met in their small groups for a training on best practices and general expectations for meeting with legislators, and of course, had fun engaging in role-plays to prepare.

Below is the list of bills chosen by the organizations and their young leaders:

  • Police Accountability
    • AB 931 (Weber) – Changes the standard by which law enforcement officers can use deadly force.
  • Policy Transparency
    • SB 1421 (Skinner)– Allow public access to police investigations, findings, and discipline relating to deadly and serious uses of force, sexual assault against a civilian, and proven dishonesty.
  • Juvenile Justice
    • SB 439 (Lara & Mitchell) – Would exclude children 11 years old and younger from prosecution in juvenile court, protecting them from the negative impacts of formal justice system involvement. |or| Setting a minimum age for Juvenile Court prosecution.
    • SB 1391(Lara & Mitchell) – Prohibits children age 14 and 15 from being tried as adults in criminal court and being sentenced to time in adult prison.
  • Sentencing Reform
    • SB 1437(Anderson & Skinner)- clarifies that a person may only be convicted of murder if the individual willingly participated in an act that results in a homicide or that was clearly intended to result in a homicide.
  • Education
    • SB 607 (Skinner) – End of willful defiance/disruption suspensions and expulsions.
    • AB 2772 (Medina) – Ethnic Studies Requirement.
  • Healing and Trauma
    • AB 1639 (E. Garcia) – California Victim Compensation Board, this bill ensures that alleged gang affiliation and immigration status don’t preclude someone from Victims Compensation Fund eligibility.
  • Workforce
    • AB 2138 (Chiu & Low) Access to Occupational Licenses for formally incarcerated people.

The capitol visit day was a strong success. Our young leaders came prepared, shared their stories, built relationships with their elected officials and helped move the needle towards a better future for all Californians.

Learn More

  • You can learn more about the Youth Power Summit here.
  • You can learn more about OYUnited’s Community Action Teams (CATs) in California and around the nation – and get involved! – here.

 

__________

 

adam
Adam Strong
is a founding member of OYUnited and member of our National Council of Young Leaders. A passionate advocate and lifelong learner, he has six years of experience in national policy advocacy, using his skills in policy analysis and communication & strategy he aims to influence policymakers to implement policies that increase economic mobility and decrease poverty in America. More from Adam.

 

MCF

OYU Builds Power with the Marguerite Casey Foundation Family

From May 18 to 20, more than 400 leaders gathered at the Marguerite Casey Foundation’s National Convening in Washington, DC, to celebrate their work, their communities and their power.

OYU leaders were among the grassroots leaders, students, parents, artists, spoken-word poets, and organizers who explored what power really means, what it takes to build and grow a movement of low-income families, and how to disrupt and dismantle structural causes of poverty.

During the convening, OYU leaders and members facilitated a breakout session focused on building power among young people.

In preparation for the convening, OYU created a video on the theme of power #OwnthePower2018:

Learn more about the convening on the Marguerite Casey Foundation site: Our Power. Our Community. Our Change.

OYU Community Action Teams Come Together to Prepare for 2018

By: Shanice Turner, National Council of Young Leaders
Jan. 8, 2018

In mid-December 2017, young leaders from across the country – members of OYU’s Community Action Teams (CATs) and OYU Community Leaders – met in Boston for the first-ever CAT retreat.

I was one of several members of the National Council of Young Leaders who also attended the retreat. It was amazing. The knowledge and practices shared are definitely lessons that I can take back to my work in Atlanta.

Community Action Teams are the grassroots organizing arm of OYUnited.  Groups of young leaders from local youth-serving organizations come together to uplift the issues affecting low-income communities, to promote the Recommendations for Increasing Opportunity and Decreasing Poverty in America, to make their voices heard with elected officials, to mobilize their peers to be informed voters, and to advocate for their priority issues while serving their communities in a variety of ways.

This was the first time many of the CAT leaders met each other in person. There were about 30 young leaders in the room, representing OYU’s CATs in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Oakland, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Seattle. Leaders from Columbus, Ohio also participated. (OYU also has a CAT in New York but its members were unable to participate.)

Here’s what I love about OYU: We are a solutions-oriented movement of young adults who have experienced poverty and are dedicated to creating a society with opportunity and responsibility, love and respect, education and employment, justice and equality for all. We are Black, White, Native American, Latino, Asian, and Mixed Heritage.  We are from all different religions, genders and sexual preferences, from both urban and rural areas.

In this two-day retreat, we learned specific skills to help us make our vision a reality across America.

Learning Fiscal Mapping

A highlight of the retreat was the fiscal mapping training we received. Elizabeth Gaines and Olivia Allen, trainers from the Forum for Youth Investment, walked us through how city and state budgets are made and how government agencies propose funding for local activities.

Using skits, we acted out and visualized how to understand and influence funding decisions. We learned about communities where advocates have successfully increased funding for programs for young people.

Presentation on budget proposals

Budget information

Looking at Boston’s fiscal year budget.

My take-away: the number of people engaged in advocacy counts. Be specific and use your political muscle.

As young leaders, we can follow our city and state budget process by going online, and then pitch a budget increase for the things that we are passionate about. We can bring information to decisionmakers one by one and also use public hearings as a way to have our questions answered and voices heard.

 

Jamiel Alexander

OYU National Council of Young Leaders member Jamiel Alexander during the training.

Building Our Movement, Planning for 2018

Later on that first day, we traveled to the Boston-based organization, Teen Empowerment, for more training. We paired off with the people who live and are doing work in our cities. Together, we brainstormed our plans and priorities for 2018, and then reported to everyone about our key activities. It was energizing and concrete.

 

Inside the meeting

Working on our 2018 local action plans.

On our last day in Boston, the CATs held a discussion about how they would like to mobilize, and how longer-standing CATs could assist newer groups that have recently joined OYU.  One area we discussed: how to utilize social media to gain support and awareness.

We shared the history of OYU and the CATs, and discussed how to define what it means to be an effective CAT. We had another brainstorming session on how to organize our CATs.

At the end of the final day, we reported out on the ideas that we are each taking back to our cities and how to leverage the connections we made during this retreat when we all go back to our communities.

We’re ready for 2018!

READY

 

 

____

Shanice Turner is a member of the National Council of Young Leaders and a founding member of Opportunity Youth United, and is affiliated with the OYU Sponsoring Organization Year Up. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia where she serves as grants manager and writer for Gate City Day Nursery. Shanice is equally passionate about child advocacy and creative pursuits like acting and voiceover work. More from Shanice (including video).

 

Photo credits: Nancy Schieffelin and Shanice Turner (Twitter.com/@ShaniceSpeaks)

Hope in Turbulent Times: Adam Strong on a New Campaign to Reconnect Youth

By: Adam Strong
Oct. 16, 2017

I don’t believe I have ever felt so hopeful in such politically turbulent times.

On September 27, I traveled to Capitol Hill for the launch of the Reconnecting Youth Campaign, a broad coalition of organizations that have come together to advocate for a solution to one of the biggest problems our country faces. There are currently 4.9 million young people ages 16 to 24 who are not in school and not working. We refer to these young people as “Opportunity Youth” for two reasons: they are seeking opportunity and they represent an untapped opportunity to employers and communities. They are individuals who want to contribute, who want a pathway to success and a strong future, but lack access to opportunity. Close to 3 million of these Opportunity Youth come from low-income families facing real systematic barriers.

At the same time, data from the Department of Labor released in June show that our nation has 6 million job vacancies. With the right supports, many Opportunity Youth could step up and fill these roles. What’s more, reconnecting a young person saves American taxpayers $65,000 over the course of that person’s career, and brings in an additional $105,000 in tax revenue. It really is a win-win.

Beyond the Numbers: Real Lives, Real Potential

To put it in perspective: across America, slightly more than 1 in 10 young people ages 16 to 24 are not in school and not working. Yet in many communities across the country, the numbers are much higher. In Southeastern Kentucky, where I’m from, the average is closer to 1 in 4 young people. This carries a social cost that goes beyond mere economics. A sense of hopelessness and helplessness is fueling increasing levels of crime and drug abuse in my area, and I believe it’s largely due to our inability to develop and provide pathways for young people.

That’s where the Reconnecting Youth Campaign: Unleashing Limitless Potential comes in. It is a federal advocacy campaign calling on Congress to invest in America’s future by funding 1 million program slots for meaningful education, training, national service and employment opportunities each year for 16- to 24-year-olds.

There are numerous federally funded programs that are highly vetted, proven to work, and that provide these young people real pathways to reconnection.  These evidence-based programs include WIOA Youth Services, Job Corps, YouthBuild, Service and Conservation Corps, AmeriCorps, National Guard Challenge Program, Reentry Employment Opportunities, and many others.

Together, such federally funded programs currently have slots for about 330,000 young people distributed in communities across the U.S. This amount doesn’t even come close to addressing the problem nor does it even come close to reaching some of the most vulnerable among us: youth in rural low-income communities.

In my region of Appalachia, for example, there is practically no program taken to scale for young people. And Appalachia is not alone. There are regions around this country that are isolated from any of these pathways for young people to turn their lives around and provide for their families.

I was lucky to connect with a YouthBuild AmeriCorps program. When I graduated from high school, I worked as a security guard at a coal mine. With the decline of the coal industry, I was laid off without options. Everyone was struggling to find work. A friend connected me to YouthBuild, where I built the foundation for my future.  First, I studied to be a pharmacy technician and then went on to work myself into the middle class as a Medical Laboratory Technologist. After working a few years in the field, I realized that the most important thing in my life was to ensure that other people had the same opportunity I had.  I’m now in graduate school studying public policy.

Coming Together to Urge Action

On that September Day, when I and other members of the Reconnecting Youth Campaign—some longtime advocates and others former Opportunity Youth like myself—met with Members of Congress on Capitol Hill, the question we received the most was, “How did you come together and why?” They were not used to meeting with so many individuals working across sectors on a single issue.

And it was the easiest answer: “This problem we face is bigger than any one of us.”

I have heard it said that politicians follow the wind: they go here and there, changing direction as the wind does. When we come together, when we stand united behind a common goal, we become the wind, forcing action. Our solutions come from a place of respect, love and positive movement, but we are determined.  And that’s why I’m filled with such hope for our future.

__________________________

Adam Strong is a founding Member of the National Council of Young Leaders and of Opportunity Youth United, a national youth-led movement to increase opportunity and decrease poverty in America. He is currently working on his Masters of Public Policy from the University of New Hampshire.

#OYUvotes: Voter Registration Videos

By: OYUnited
Sep. 12, 2017

Thank you for sharing why voting matters to you on National Voter Registration Day in September! The 50-state holiday drew thousands of organizations and volunteers that worked to ensure that our family, friends, and neighbors are registered to vote.

Why does registering matter? States, cities, counties and towns have big elections coming soon. Primaries for next year’s state and national elections are fast approaching. It’s time to get involved no matter what party you support or which issues matter most to you.

The purpose of the #OYUvotes campaign is to uplift the voices of opportunity youth about the importance of voting and encourage all our members to register themselves and their peers to vote.

How Can I Get Involved?

Simple! Below are a action steps you can take to help us create a buzz!!!

1. Make a 30-second NONPARTISAN* video about why voting matters and why you vote. Share it via your social media networks using the hash tags #OYUvotes #whyIvote….. check out some samples in our YouTube playlist above.

2. Be sure you have registered to vote and urge your friends and peers to register, through the OYU website page (bit.ly/OYUvotes). Take a selfie or picture of people registering and share it to create buzz, using the hashtag #OYUvotes!

3. Check out our #OYUvotes Voter Challenge on Facebook!

You can also check the National Voter Registration Day website for more resources and ways to get involved!

WATCH the #OYUvotes Playlist

November 7th is an important day for key elections in many states. It is an opportunity for you to continue to use your voice to encourage friends, family and loved ones to register to vote. It starts with YOU. To start, verify your status and find your poling place here.

Then, share why voting matters to you using the #OYUvotes hashtag and invite a friend or family member to register to vote TODAY!

 

VOTE!


* Please keep your videos nonpartisan: the videos should focus on why voting matters and what you think about voter engagement, and can mention specific issues or causes. However, they should not mention particular candidates or parties, either in support or opposition.