SAN FERNANDO VALLEY, CA — In 2005, Youth Speak Collective founders David Kietzman and Whitney Kasserman saw an urgent need for educational resources and activities for youth living in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Compelled to help fill the void, David and Whitney developed an eight-week seminar in which students explored community needs, grassroots organizing, grant writing skills to bring new resources into the community and planning to improve the health of their community. That seminar led to the idea of a community pocket garden. Using the skills they had learned, the participants developed a plan for the ‘literacy garden,’ and secured a $10,000 from City of Los Angeles Community Beautification Grant Program to bring the idea to life.
Youth Speak youth organized volunteer days to construct the garden, planting 12 trees, 300 plants, adding 3 benches, a mosaic trash can and stone border. After 650 volunteer hours and over $3,900 additional in-kind services and donations youth had created a green space where community members can have a place to relax, read, and enjoy life. Empowered by the experience, Youth Speak mentors and youth developed additional projects and programs, growing the grassroots organization into a year-round provider of afterschool programs for hundreds of young people.
“After seeing many of my friends and myself turn to drugs as an alternative, I realize that the youth do have say in the way the community changes and evolves and I want it to be positive.” -Evelyn Gomez, founding Youth Speak student
Youth Speak Collective is a youth-driven organization founded on the idea that all young people can succeed if provided with the right opportunities. We follow a “for youth, by youth” philosophy in which young people are empowered to help design and implement our programs.
We provide students throughout the Northeast San Fernando Valley with creative, high-quality programs that channel their intellect and talent, build their academic skills, and strengthen their investment in their own communities.This work is made possible by a strong network of volunteers, contributors, and community leaders who all take an active role in advancing our work. Explore our programs, become involved, and support our youth!
Youth Speak’s mission is to empower low-income, at-risk youth and their families with the skills necessary to pursue higher education and create strong communities. The organization’s name stems from its commitment to providing youth with the opportunity to ‘speak’ – to be vocal and empowered, helping develop the very programs they participate in, programs that improve the health of their neighborhoods.
Youth Speak Collective programs have an incredible impact on the young people they serve, their families, and their community. Annually more than 5,000 participants are served through 8 programs at 15 different program sites. Every year our team is determined to strengthen, evaluate and create a deeper impact for our programs in our community. The statistics below are from some of our past program evaluations.
- 90% of students ages 11 to 19 enrolled in afterschool programs reporting raising their scholastic achievement.
- 87% of students reported raising their grades in one or more class.
- 75% reported feeling more confident in their academic performance.
- The 2 public high schools in and around Pacoima have a drop out rate of 51%.
- In comparison, 95% of Youth Speak seniors complete their high school requirements and graduate with their class.
- More than 3,000 hours of community service have been contributed to community projects by Youth Speak students and their families.
- Through Project Youth Green, 4 square acres of public land has been cultivated into a community garden.
- In 2009, LA84 Foundation and Nike built a new Futsal court for Futbolito Pacoima valued at $250,000.
- In 2006, Youth Speak students and volunteers developed Proyecto Kawazoe a Japanese styled drought tolerant pocket park in Pacoima.
- In 2009, the Creative Tech Center was developed with key funding from the Pacoima Neighborhood Council.
- Since 2010, our Visual Arts students have created nine murals in the community and hosted seven art shows.
- Opening in 2013, YSC along with partners the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, Pacoima Beautiful and the City of Los Angeles will open another pocket park and mural located near San Fernando High School
- Youth Speak has provided jobs and internship opportunities to over 100 students since 2010.
- 56% of students participating in our programs report that Youth Speak had a direct impact in their finding a job out of high school.
- 78% of students reported having higher self-esteem and self-confidence after participating in a Youth Speak program.
Youth Speak Collective has many ways for you to stay informed and engaged with us, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, News Feeds, Flickr, and YSC email blasts. Through anyone one of these avenues, you can make a difference. From making a donation and volunteering, to simply spreading the word about Youth Speak Collective to your friends and family, we count on supporters like you, to help us in our mission of youth empowerment and community revitalization.
Youth Speak Locations
Headquarters: 444 South Brand Blvd. Suite #201, San Fernando, CA 91340 – 818.890.2928
Organizing Office: 11243 Glenoaks Blvd. Suite #11, Pacoima, CA 91331 – 818.890.8033
Creative Tech Center: 11243 Glenoaks Blvd. Suite #10, Pacoima, CA 91331
General Inquiries: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org