Youth In Action (YIA), located on the South Side of Providence, Rhode Island, is where youth share their stories, practice leadership, and create change in their communities.
Our youth come from diverse backgrounds and identities, and live in communities that reflect this. These communities often face a disproportionate share of social, economic and environmental burdens. These realities along with structural oppression in the forms of scarcely resourced schools, over criminalization and geographically isolated poverty can easily create a false self and social-narrative of worth and potential for our youth. Here at YIA, our model works to unpack and undo these internalizations while highlighting and celebrating their values, voices and intersecting identities. This layered with the essential leadership skills and social-emotional development provided through our programming our youth are equipped to become agents of change in their communities. Their work challenges systems and social structures and prepares them to be in positions of power.
We create opportunities for youth to become their best selves. They address power imbalances that stifle the potential of youth, especially young people of color, and create more caring and fair public institutions and systems. By building power, leadership and action amongst youth in our communities, we believe a more equitable and safe world is possible.
Founded in 1997, YIA was one of the pioneers of “youth-led” work in Providence, following a time of major revitalization in the city, both in infrastructure and in culture. The organization, originally founded by a group of young people motivated to make change in the community, grew to be a flagship for youth driven work in the city. Today, Youth In Action serves close to 200 youth, weekly.
First Decade grounded in a public health lens
Listening to the needs of the youth community and witnessing a rise in STD/HIV rates, YIA youth responded with the creation of the YEAH team (Youth Educating About Health), a program funded by the RI Department of Health working to dispel the stigma surrounding sexual health. YIA youth educated over 3,000 of their peers and distributed over 10,000 condoms!
Pretext for anti-violence work as connected to public health work
Crime rates in Providence are the highest they’ve been, in 2000 alone 30 people were killed in Providence, and 45 statewide. Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence was founded in 2000 in response.
Titan (Teens Informing Teens About Nonviolence) group is formed at YIA in response to increased crime and violence. Students at YIA develop a curriculum for nonviolent social change that they facilitate for their peers.
Youth-led policy change
Youth In Action shepherded the Youth 4 Change (Y4C) alliance, funded by the Nellie Mae Foundation. Y4C alliance members launched a youth movement, elevating young people as critical thinkers and decision makers in Providence. The alliance created new ways for organizations, youth and adults to work together to spearhead coordinated projects and campaigns.
Student Designed Schools
YIA and the Business Innovation Factory team up to introduce Students Design For Education (SD4E), a groundbreaking initiative to create a school designed by high school students.
Creation of Identity & Social Location Space
In the summer of 2015, YIA attends the Youth Leadership Institute at Babson College and participates in the Identity & Social Location Space. After the conference, YIA youth worked with the creators of the exhibit to curate and adapt the space for Youth In Action. Since then, YIA youth have designed a workshop to accompany the space and have traveled with it across New England facilitating workshops on identity and social location.
Workshops in Action launched
Having taken our Identity & Social Location Space to various conferences, and presented it to small groups of educators, two things became evident – there was a need for trainings and workshops on identity and politics of power, and that the opportunity to facilitate these workshops was a turning point for our young people in their growth. In 2016, we started very informally facilitating workshops at request. By word of mouth, more and more requests came in for youth-led workshops and trainings.
City-wide Student Walkout
A small group of YIA youth partner with youth from a sister organization, Providence Student Union, to orchestrate a citywide student walkout across public, private, and charter schools. Over 1,000 students walked out of their classrooms that day in protest of the newly inaugurated Trump administration’s destructive policies.
Help Us Grow!
YIA creates opportunities for youth to become their best selves, to address power imbalances that stifle the potential of poor youth and young people of color, and to create more caring and fair public institutions and systems.