This week we spoke with Elliot Rivera, Executive Director of Youth in Action (YIA) in Rhode Island.
This is a non-profit that focuses on developing young leaders to advocate for change on important issues that impact their communities.
The pandemic caused previous issues such as poverty, accessibility to resources, lack of self-care, domestic violence, and youth homelessness to be amplified. Running this organization is highly influenced by the young generation. “Let’s let the young people decide. They know what’s going to work best for them,” explained Rivera.
YIA challenges the status quo by providing education about important controversial topics. It is understanding how these issues are connected to one another that is the key to bringing leaders to their full potential. “If we really want the current generation and the next generation to be the best that they can be, we have to start letting those opportunities for leadership and practice happen now,” explained Rivera. Their mission is more than the work itself as it is about the camaraderie they have for each other and the greater community.
The tools used to build leaders in YIA are the development of public speaking, conflict resolution, owning your story, teamwork, self-care, and advocacy work. The importance of self-care and caring for the community while learning the skills to accomplish their goals is what makes YIA unique.
The fight for antiracism and cultural humility is what YIA advocates for in the education system. Ethnic studies have been lacking as marginalized groups are being misrepresented in the education system. Mental health, counseling, self-care, and community care need to be focused to better reflect all cultures and the concerns of parents and families. Every group faces very similar issues meaning it is important to educate those who are not part of the minority to understand their issues and support them. When one group is struggling it will affect everyone.
We are pushed to believe that we are alone, but YIA is working to change that narrative. We are all in this together as we all have a role to play.