Their Words. Their Stories: A Conversation with Youth Organizers

Sept 4, 2018

By Olivia Parnell, 2018 Intern in Philanthropy at New York Foundation

This year, 21 interns were placed at 15 grantee organizations as a part of the New York Foundation’s Summer Internship in Community Organizing (SICO) program. The SICO program offers a unique opportunity for youth to gain hands-on experience as community organizers throughout New York City. From addressing displacement of neighborhood residents to mobilizing nail salon workers, this summer’s cohort engaged in a wide-range of justice efforts.

In July 2018, the New York Foundation brought the SICO interns together for a day-long orientation session to discuss various elements and approaches of community organizing. We shared stories, asked questions, and heard from experienced organizers and advocates. What struck me most was how the lived experiences of each SICO intern informed how and why they engaged in work to advance justice. The SICO interns shared the belief that for organizing to be an effective tool for social change, leadership must come from directly affected communities.

During my visit to one of our grantee partners, Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project, which assists Haitian immigrant youth in New York City public schools through education programs, leadership development, and community engagement, I asked Flanbwayan’s case manager, Nancie Adolphe, how she saw their interns’ impact this summer. She replied, “This is their work. This is their story.”

In this short film, we hope to highlight their stories and elevate their voices. We hope to show why youth leadership is a pivotal component of community organizing. You will find that youth organizers today are putting their political and social beliefs into action and at the same time, recognize the need to pay tribute to those who came before them.

The four interns featured in this film represent the following organizations: VOCAL-NY, Cabrini Immigrant Services of NYC, Rockaway Youth Task Force, and Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice.