Our History

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. 

1997

Youth in Action (YIA) is founded and incorporated by four youth (Misty Wilson, Alee Loeur, Sopheap Kong, Julie Imonti) and adult Karen Feldman as a uniquely youth-operated and -led nonprofit organization! 

YIA launches the Multicultural Arts Team (MCAT) to coordinate arts events and activities at AS220, where the diverse cultures of YIA are celebrated, and youth display their talents (Battle of the DJs and City-Wide Jumpoff).

1998

YIA launches the Community Action Team (CAT) to solve tough community problems. Projects include the design and renovation of empty lots, painting large scale murals and developing new neighborhood parks.

YIA launches the Education Team to educate their peers in substance abuse, HIV and pregnancy prevention. Youth Staff create the curriculum and workshops.

Four teenagers in 90's fashion painting a mural on an outdoor wall
The original 1990's logo for Youth in Action, showing the letters "YIA" over a black circle.

1999

YIA youth found the YEAH Team (Youth Educating About Health), working to dispel stigma surrounding sexual health. Youth educate over 3,000 of their peers and distribute over 10,000 condoms!

YEAH Team conducts classes and workshops at the MET School using a curriculum written in partnership with Youth Pride and Brown University’s Swearer Center.

2002

Youth fundraise and ultimately buy the house at 672 Broad Street in Providence . Youth descend upon the house, making it their own!

TITAN (Teens Informing Teens About Nonviolence) forms in response to an increase in crime and violence, developing a curriculum for nonviolent social change.

A small group of teenagers laughs while looking at something off-camera. A banner hangs on the wall behind them with an image of the earth made of puzzle pieces, reading "OUR WORLD", "YIA", and "UNITY THROUGH DIVERSITY".

2008

With its first grant from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, YIA shepherds the Youth 4 Change (Y4C) Alliance. Along with  Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), Y4C launches the Providence Youth Bill of Rights, elevating young people as critical thinkers & decision makers.

2009

YIA attends Free Minds, Free People (FMFP), a national gathering  of teachers, students, activists, academics and parents from across the country to promote education as a tool for liberation.

An old version of the Youth in Action logo, showing the letter Y in a paint brushed style.
A short documentary on a May Day protest in Providence, created by the Next Generation Media Team

2010

YIA’s Next Generation Media Team launches to support youth in the creation of media projects driven by social justice and activism.

2011

Y4C Alliance brings the Free Minds, Free People (FMFP) conference to Providence!

A short documentary of the FMFP conference created by YIA’s own Next Generation Media Team.

2013

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.

2015

YIA attends the Youth Leadership Institute at Babson College for the first time. Inspired by their Identity & Social Location Space, YIA youth write curriculum and facilitate identity and social location workshops across New England.

YIA establishes its first annual Wilderness Retreat to reclaim green spaces and share transformational experiences outdoors.

2017

A group of YIA youth partners with the Providence Student Union to orchestrate a citywide walkout of over 1,000 students across public, private, and charter schools in protest of the Trump administration’s destructive policies.

2019

YIA’s Identity & Social Location Space workshops reach a national level at the Black Communities Conference in North Carolina.

YIA helps found the OurSchoolsPVD Coalition, working toward a racially just and equitable Providence Public School District.

YIA joins KidsCount‘s student-centered learning leadership table.
YIA youth facilitate two in-school Action Groups at Central High School’s FUSE Academy. The Action Groups culminate in a school-wide, youth-led professional development for teachers and administrative staff.

Youth workshopping accessible streets at the Mobility Justice Conference.

2020

Responding to community-based needs during the pandemic, YIA youth form the Youth Action Board (YAB) to end youth homelessness. YIA also brings intergenerational representation and voice to the national Building Capacity of Latino Communities for COVID-19 Response

YIA youth lead the Mobility Justice Conference educating on the injustices of auto-first streets.  They also become lead equity consultant on PVD Trees, to increase urban tree canopy and environmental justice.

2023

Youth are now present across all levels of the organization as part-time Program, Development, Digital Engagement, Admin, and Executive Strategy Co-Coordinators – and we maintain 50% youth representation on our Board with a youth Co-Chair model.

Help Us Grow!

Today, YIA stands in its power.

YIA youth continue to create change through deep community connection. YIA leans into youth wisdom, as they support YIA’s strategic development, protecting and uplifting the voices of their peers. This is what youth leadership can look like.

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.