Spotlight Nonprofit: Empowering youth with a “for youth, by youth” philosophy

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LatinaLista — Young people of Pacoima, California are among the most impoverished in the state. The poverty that exists in the Northeast San Fernando Valley doesn’t give these kids too much hope for a promising future — and that was all the impetus needed for David Kietzman and Whitney Kasserman to do something about it.

The two founded in 2005 the organization Youth Speak! Collective. They knew they wanted to do something but they also knew it had to be something that the kids wanted to do for it to be successful. And so began a non profit that focused on creating programs that the kids had a voice in developing.

Youth Speak was founded to address the high drop out rates and community-wide disempowerment… Through a menu of programs and initiatives, teens build their academic skills, computer literacy, teamwork, conflict resolution skills, creative expression, and personal development.

With such programs as: the Career Internship program; 9th Grade Academy summer program; the four-month 24/7 Fatherhood program that teaches fathers and expectant dads a host of skills from parenting to work readiness; the For the Record News to teach creative writing and graphic design; the Mural Design program that teaches basic art and street design concepts and the list goes on.

In 2010, Youth Speak! Collective served more than 3,200 in ten different programs. Ninety-five percent of Youth Speak seniors complete their high school requirements and graduate with their class and both students and families contributed more than 2,000 hours of community service through the organizations community programs.

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.

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