The California Endowment Youth Awards
GET RID OF THE KIDS’ TABLE
Youth organizing is now mainstream, and young people are amassing the digital, social, and political capital to disrupt the status quo and subvert systems that don’t serve them. Yet, there are few programs and networks that amplify this work intentionally. The California Endowment (TCE) decided to take this task on by creating a-first-of-its-kind Youth Awards Program to acknowledge, honor, and celebrate youth leaders and organizers in the state. From its inception in 2017 through 2021, RALLY helped develop, plan, and execute the awards program.
All too often, the adults in the room treat youth like they don’t know better. But the truth is, youth-led activism is the key to building a more just world. Our goal for this awards program was to bring it to life in a way that authentically, respectfully, and meaningfully honored young people and their efforts. We achieved this by centering youth voices within the planning, execution, and network building elements of the ceremony, cementing the program as a trusted partner in the movement for youth-led futures. Throughout the process we maintained close relationships with youth stakeholders, using their input to shape programming while managing all phases of the awards program, from a thoughtful nominations process where youth/adult committees convened to review submissions to celebratory events with unique swag, one-of-a-kind performances, and galvanizing speeches. Every year the award ceremony has been a joyful event where young people are honored for the critical role they play in social change.
Young people are organizers and agents of change with bold and actionable ideas, and youth-led futures demand that we simultaneously recognize young people’s agency over their social, political, and economic conditions and abolish the “kids’ table” that has long isolated them. Youth and live programming have been at the core of numerous RALLY engagements, including efforts to turn out the vote with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), NARAL, Rock the Vote, and others.