Earlier this year, we shared our bold vision that would guide our work into 2021. Over the last 9 months, we've kept that vision at the center and are a few steps closer to a future where CalSAC is:
The hub of a strong out-of-school time professional identity and community;
An innovative provider of leadership and professional development;
A catalyst for systems change through grassroots advocacy;
A leader and model in the field for racial, economic, and educational equity; and
A nationally recognized organization and valued partner
We are emboldened by the support and partnership of our community to continue pursuing that future together, and are thrilled to set new milestones for the next year.
That includes significant increases in our advocacy work to do our part in upholding a democratic and just society, because we believe the wellbeing of young people is directly tied to the wellbeing of any society.
Why is this important?
Throughout our history, civil society in the United States has failed to ensure that all young people are informed, empowered, and able to exercise their civic agency. This is despite the fact some of the most transformational changes in America have been led by visionary, tenacious young leaders.
In California, more than 70% of people ages 18-25 are people of color, and 50% have an immigrant or refugee background. The out-of-school time workforce – a workforce that authentically believes in the promise of the next generation – is overwhelmingly made up of young people who represent the racial and ethnic diversity of the children and youth they work with. They, too, have experienced the consistent institutional disregard for their own basic human rights, safety, housing, education and more. This means that we have the opportunity to ignite a spirit of civic engagement that young leaders have demonstrated time and time again. While simultaneously engaging the young adults in the field alongside the children and youth they work with in programs, we can dramatically increase the participation of young people of color in our democracy.
We are committed to leaning into this work to build our political power, and realize the just and equitable California that children and youth deserve. Over the coming months, you’ll see us meeting this promise by:
Developing civic leaders and organizers
Through our Advocacy Ambassadors program, we are cultivating the leadership of youth workers to organize, shape and influence policy. We’ve expanded the program by making it a year-long experience that includes ongoing skill building and support, involves a larger statewide community of advocates, and introduces participants to more organizations, partners and policymakers that are also protecting and advancing the wellbeing of young people. We'll also host our 15th annual California Afterschool and Summer Challenge, empowering youth and youth workers to bring their voice directly to the state legislature.
Our nation’s schools have by and large failed to achieve one of their founding purposes: educating young people to be engaged, informed and responsible citizens. More and more, the traditional school day cannot be expected to provide all the supports necessary to justly prepare young people for school, work and life on their own. Out-of-school time programs are uniquely positioned to expose children, youth and their families to authentic experiences that build the skills and motivation to be civically engaged. By providing relevant resources, training, and coaching to out-of-school time organizations, we’ll help shift program cultures to elevate their role as critical mechanisms for a healthy democracy.
Although historically, turnout of young voters and voters of color lag (especially pronounced during midterm elections), the recent grassroots, youth-led, movement to address gun violence spurred a significant spike in youth voter registration across the country. In California, over 100,000 teens are now pre-registered to vote. This signals that youth turnout is on the rise, and young people of color are mobilizing around the issues that matter most to them. We want every youth worker to be registered to vote – and does! – so we’re providing resources and tools to build an informed, educated and mobilized voting bloc of youth and youth workers. From local elections to national movements, the out-of-school time field can be an influential base that ushers in policy victories and holds lawmakers accountable to all children and youth.
CalSAC has been a leader in critical advocacy that protects and strengthens public support and investment in California’s out-of-school time programs since 1982. Through grassroots organizing and collaboration with leading policy coalitions and organizations, we’ve successfully passed key legislation benefiting children and families. It is clear that our work isn’t over, and we intend to increase our capacity and visibility as an organizing, advocacy and policy organization. By producing work that elevates the critical need for equitable access to support services like out-of-school programs, building stronger relationships with policymakers and champions, and growing our visibility in public policy spaces, CalSAC will serve as a resource to decision makers and influence policy that impacts young people.