Posted on June 9, 2016
We’ve all heard the phrase: today’s youth are our future leaders. But the truth is, young people are already exercising their leadership skills all around us. Today, they hold a range of leadership positions, as attorneys, tenant counselors, community organizers, policy analysts, and so many more.
This year, the New York Foundation celebrates 35 years since creating the Summer Internship in Community Organizing (SICO) program. An idea that came from our grantees, the program seeks to build a pipeline of young people who are interested in community organizing by enabling grantees to provide ten-week internships during the summer. Since its inception, more than 350 young people from the five boroughs have participated as interns.
And where does that summer experience lead them? Many talented adult organizers we meet have had early experiences as New York Foundation summer interns. Cristina Jimenez, co-founder of United We Dream; Marquis Jenkins, community organizer at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; David Shuffler, executive director of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice; and Deyanira Del Rio, co-director of the New Economy Project are all notable examples.
What have we learned over 35 years that makes our program so successful?
Cultivate young people of color and support their desire to lead. Chosen directly by grantees, the SICO interns reflect the communities and constituencies served by our grantees. Often immersed in campaigns that address problems in their own neighborhoods, young people see themselves—and are seen by others—as agents of change in their communities. Its also important that our support allows interns to be paid. Internships that are unpaid are not a viable option for young people who don’t have alternative means of support.
Invite interns to interact with one another. SICO interns come together for an all-day orientation session at the New York Foundation. This gathering trains them in basic community organizing skills, but also exposes them to one another’s projects and introduces them to former interns now working in the field. A Facebook group page allows current and former interns to stay in touch, share information about events, and post jobs.
Have high expectations for what young people can contribute. We’ve learned from both interns and grantees that the best internships include three main ingredients: extensive contact with community members, regular supervision, and a project that can be completed during the summer. At their respective organizations, SICO interns participate in formal organizing training and receive on-going supervision and coaching to discuss campaign strategies, individual work plans as well as political education topics. Interns engage in real hands-on community organizing experience such as outreach, facilitating meetings and trainings, logistics and action planning, strategic communications and social media, and one-on-one meetings.
Join us as we invite you to hear from young people themselves who have taken their summer internship experience and put it to use in many different sectors. In this short-video series “Where Are They Now?” you’ll hear from SICO alumni who give us a glimpse of what they’re doing now. While only a few of the young people in this series continued on the path of community organizing, you’ll find that they all are leaders in New York City.