Alexa Nunez, Natasha Vaughan, Michael Pincus, Mallorie Cohen, and Evelyn Gonzalez
“Deeper than grassroots.” Under a patch of grass in the sultry summer, root systems have been growing in a sporadic, yet advantageous, method to create an inclusive organization. We are called Rhizome.
Rhizome is a nonpartisan organization that seeks to empower youth nationwide by providing the tools to become civically engaged and encouraging lifelong leadership. Our organization is dedicated to giving high school and college students the resources needed for registering voters, teaching younger students about democracy, discussing local issues, and facilitating community spaces.
Rhizome is grounded in principles of group-based leadership, empathetic listening, and collaboration as we seek to learn from our past experiences and grow together in a cohesive environment.
We want to focus our efforts more broadly toward sharing the skills, outlook, and, most importantly, community that civic organizing can foster. Collaborating nationally, we have developed a youth-led organization that not only reflects our goals through what we seek to achieve, but ingrains our values throughout our process, expectations, and environment. We are unapologetically process-oriented.
Rhizome was co-founded by an impressive cohort of 90 high school and college students — and adult Mentors — from across the United States. Our Co-Founders hail from states like Florida and Georgia, disenfranchised communities, Title I schools, and all four corners of the nation. We are a diverse group of civically-energized youth with unique stories and upbringings.
We take pride in the fact that Rhizome is primarily youth-led. All our Regional Organizers, Community Organizers, and Committee Leaders are high school or college students, and even our adult Mentors are between the ages of 21 and 26. A list of our Co-Founders’ bios can be found on our website.
Rhizome is nonpartisan, and no political orientation is expected of our Co-Founders or members. Rather than locating ourselves on the partisan map between candidates or parties, we cut our own path, guard our imaginations, and refuse cyclical thinking. Our team welcomes passionate and civically engaged changemakers from all walks of life.
Our mission is to foster a love for civics and community engagement among today’s young people and for all future generations to come. We know what it is like to have to forge new civic spaces for ourselves and our peers, since those spaces do not already exist in a way that lets us create scalable, lasting change. By bringing civics education into elementary, middle, and high schools, we hope to instill a generational confidence that all of our voices matter and that democracy belongs to all of us. Our ages, financial backgrounds, and identities should not impede our ability to be civically engaged.
We have built a community where we are able to uplift and empower one another, and we hope to share this community with young people in schools across the country. Each of our Co-Founders has experience working in civic spaces, and we want to share our knowledge and lend support to students, in order to work toward a future that serves everyone.
The Rhizome community is unlike any other. Our vision of civic engagement is founded on the principle that all people have identities that can be activated and brought to the forefront of the work we do. As members of Rhizome, our experiential backgrounds inform the way we approach activism, creativity, and each other. We aim to close the gap between who we are and want to become through the actions we take. We aim to create spaces where young people are invited to bring their full selves to their work.
Prioritizing youth perspectives and experiences, Rhizome aims to create civic engagement clubs in high schools throughout the United States. Our growing team of Community Organizers is equipped with tools to recruit like-minded high school and college-age students who are ready to be more engaged in their communities. Built on relational organizing principles, Rhizome is working to create a national network of young organizers who are passionate about democracy and believe that positive social change is within their reach, as long as they are willing to work for it. We ask young people to do the right thing, even when it’s the hard thing.
Rhizome believes that, because every community is inherently different and unique in its own way, each student, educator, and school from region to region will need different types of support in order to be meaningfully engaged in our work. As an organization, we pride ourselves on our ability to listen to each other and incorporate all perspectives into the materials we create. Our Regional Organizers, Community Organizers, and Mentors use their own experiences in the high school and college systems to develop comprehensive educator handbooks, club officer guides, and other resources that speak directly to teachers and students looking to be more involved in their communities.
As individual students, we are confident in our ability to effect lasting, scalable change. As Rhizome, we believe that, together, we can use our perspectives and ideas to create a model of civic engagement that will attract students and educators for years to come. As Rhizome, we are a community committed to creating change.