The Tides of Injustice May be Rising, but the Youth of California Are Rising Faster

In 2016, in partnership with The California Endowment, The Pollination Project launched the California Youth Rising Grants Program. Young leaders, ages 13–24, receive $1,000 to establish projects that help shape a more equitable and healthy California. A cohort of grant reviewers, composed of social entrepreneurs and community organizers read over applications and decide which inspiring projects will be awarded grants, additional mentorship, and professional development opportunities.

As one of these reviewers, it is life-affirming to witness the passion that these youth have to look beyond the hurt and pain in the world and see possibility for a brighter future. These youth leaders are not “waiting” until they are adults to take a stand about the issues that matter to them. Instead, they are engaging their peers, collaborating with stakeholders, and reaching out for help. As young adults, we must be there to listen and to offer encouragement. When we partner (or even step aside!) to let youth lead; youth leaders can channel their creative intelligence to generate even more consciousness, compassion and justice in their communities and the world.

During the past 18 months, over $100,000 in grants have been made through this program to support youth changemaking in California. Here we lift up some of those grantees:

Jenna Lee, A Film and Food. To educate others on the environmental impact of animal agriculture as the most destructive industry on the planet.

Van Sam, VietUnity East. Supports East Bay families and individuals who are facing the fear of deportation, are already living in a detention center, or have already been deported to Vietnam.

Van Sam — VietUnity East

Eboni Stallworth, WeCozyBroke. Provides safe spaces for youth and young adults of color in the LGBT community.

Madalyn Le, Community Defense Project: Keeping Vietnamese Families Together. Supports families financially, mentally, and physically while family members are detained, undergoing review to be deported, or already deported to Vietnam with Know Your Rights workshops, legal services, and direct support funds for families.

Chloe Chang Chang Sorensen, Generation Bold. Provides a platform for young women to share their authentic selves and change the narrative around mental health through focus groups, community engagement, and education.

Chloe Chang Chang Sorensen, Generation Bold

Elizabeth Arellano, Ositos. Creates a safe support group for children ages 4–18 whose parents are currently incarcerated in Merced, California.

Gilbert Vasquez , No to Monster Corn. Honors the voices of indigenous ancestors’ stories and the spirit of La Madre Tierra by using the power of student stories and teatre to educate on environmental and food justice programs, for a sustainable, resilient, respectful and equitable world.

Alberto Ibarra, INSTA 3D Printing. Teaches and guides youth to expand their creativity and curiosity of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) concepts with 3D printing technology.

Russell Agustin, Sole2Soul. Supports sustainability and healthy living through the sport of running.

Dahkota Brown, NERDS Summer School. Empowers high school students who are in danger of not graduating by connecting them to creative activities for their health, nutrition education, and intensive mentoring for college preparation.

Dahkota Brown, NERDS Summer School

Do you know a young person in California, age 15–24, that has an idea to improve their community but just needs some additional funds and mentorship? If yes, please have them complete our interest form, and a member from our Outreach Team will reach out to them if there are funds still available from The California Youth Rising Program.