Do not underestimate the power of young women.*
I coordinated our first ever Summer Leadership Institute this year through California Women Rising. Through that work, I met 36 young women* between the ages of 14 and 23 and it was like having a direct line to California’s feminist future. And the future looks bright!
From Fresno to Richmond to Kern County, the Summer Leadership Institute brought together young Black, Indigenous women and gender expansive folks online to learn, lead, and champion meaningful changes for themselves and their communities.
We paired this cohort of young women* with powerhouse speakers and trainers who provided our fellows with the tools to develop their leadership style, storytelling, policy, networking, and self-care. With the guidance of facilitator Keya Bell, the cohort participated in 7 sessions from July through August to take their leadership to the next level.
If the arc of the moral universe is long, we must prepare the next generation not only with the tools to succeed but ensure they know how to care for themselves. That’s why strategies around self-care were embedded into the Summer Leadership Institute. The two months of session also allowed these leaders to network with each other. Change never comes from one individual; it is built by communities and our young leaders need to have the networks to work.
“As someone who has done community organizing for about four years within her community, this program has definitely made me think what I do. I…(organize) for the women in my community and the women around me. Coming to this realization really makes me want to help more women in Orange County.”
-Emily Fuentes, 18, Santa Ana
Investing in the growth and power of our youth strengthens our movement for generations to come. We’re already underway planning next year’s institute.Whether it’s learning models for self-care, developing their own voice through art or poetry, the Summer Leadership Institute cultivates a better understanding of storytelling, advocacy, and stronger leadership skills.
As we look towards 2022, we’re excited to have worked with these amazing group of young fierce feminist leaders and we can’t wait to see what they do next.
*We use the term “young women” expansively to mean anyone who is femme-identified whether they are cisgender or transgender. We know that language can be tricky and if you have feedback about the words we use – we want to hear from you.