In 2005, Youth Speak Collective founders David Kietzman and Whitney Kasserman saw an urgent need for educational resources and activities for youth living in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Compelled to help fill the void, David and Whitney developed an eight-week seminar in which students explored community needs, grassroots organizing, grant writing skills to bring new resources into the community and planning to improve the health of their community. That seminar led to the idea of a community pocket garden. Using the skills they had learned, the participants developed a plan for the ‘literacy garden,’ and secured a $10,000 from City of Los Angeles Community Beautification Grant Program to bring the idea to life.
Youth Speak youth organized volunteer days to construct the garden, planting 12 trees, 300 plants, adding 3 benches, a mosaic trash can and stone border. After 650 volunteer hours and over $3,900 additional in-kind services and donations youth had created a green space where community members can have a place to relax, read, and enjoy life. Empowered by the experience, Youth Speak mentors and youth developed additional projects and programs, growing the grassroots organization into a year-round provider of afterschool programs for hundreds of young people.
“After seeing many of my friends and myself turn to drugs as an alternative, I realize that the youth do have say in the way the community changes and evolves and I want it to be positive.” -Evelyn Gomez, founding Youth Speak student
Youth Speak Collective is a youth-driven organization founded on the idea that all young people can succeed if provided with the right opportunities. We follow a “for youth, by youth” philosophy in which young people are empowered to help design and implement our programs.
We provide students throughout the Northeast San Fernando Valley with creative, high-quality programs that channel their intellect and talent, build their academic skills, and strengthen their investment in their own communities.This work is made possible by a strong network of volunteers, contributors, and community leaders who all take an active role in advancing our work. Explore our programs, become involved, and support our youth!
Youth Speak’s mission is to empower low-income, at-risk youth and their families with the skills necessary to pursue higher education and create strong communities. The organization’s name stems from its commitment to providing youth with the opportunity to ‘speak’ – to be vocal and empowered, helping develop the very programs they participate in, programs that improve the health of their neighborhoods.
Youth Speak Collective programs have an incredible impact on the young people they serve, their families, and their community. Annually more than 5,000 participants are served through 8 programs at 15 different program sites. Every year our team is determined to strengthen, evaluate and create a deeper impact for our programs in our community. The statistics below are from some of our past program evaluations.