Young Voices was created in 2006 to address the desperate need for authentic youth voice in policymaking throughout Rhode Island. Since our organization was founded, we have helped more than 750 BIPOC (Black & Indigenous People of Color) youth transform into confident leaders who continue to make a difference across our state. Through their shared experiences and collective wisdom, we believe that youth are uniquely positioned to inform policy, and must have a seat at the table in all decisions that affect their lives.
But having a seat is only the beginning. Young Voices works to ensure that youth are provided with innovative leadership training to fight against systems of oppression, advocate for racial justice, and advance educational equity. Our year-round Leadership Transformation Academy (LTA) creates youth-led spaces to advance policy research and build essential skills such as public speaking and critical thinking. Our programs prepare young people to shape statewide policies that permanently impact the future of our world.
Young Voices has become nationally known for our work supporting youth to push for policy change in public education. We have been recognized by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Council for Teacher Quality for our work around teacher standards and evaluation. The Annenberg Institute at Brown University wrote about our work in its Voices in Urban Education periodical.
Young Voices founded by Karen Feldman. Karen and Chace Baptista become the co-directors of YV in our early years. Young Voices conducts first survey of 1,000 Rhode Island youth, with priorities toward widespread education reform.
Youth mobilize over 100 people to attend Board of Regents hearings. Students successfully testify in support of higher teacher standards across the state.Young Voices establishes Leadership Transformation Academy (LTA), our model of youth-oriented leadership development, in Central Falls High School.
Young Voices partners with RI is Ready to develop the first new Education Funding Formula for Rhode Island in 15 years. YV serves on the Race to the Top Steering Committee, helping Rhode Island allocate over $75 Million in school funding.
Alongside the ACLU and other community organizations, Young Voices successfully assembles over 300 people to push back high-stakes testing as a graduation requirement at a Board of Regents hearing.
Young Voices replicates our turnaround school model at the Juanita Sanchez Education Complex. We now serve over 120 youth across Central Falls and Providence.
Young Voices’ youth testify at State Board of Regents hearings about teacher certification and at multiple hearings at the State House regarding graduation requirements. Young Voices again expands our school-based model, serving Alvarez in Providence and Tolman High School in Pawtucket. We now serve over 300 youth state-wide.
Young Voices students testify at the Providence School Board against the closing of Alvarez High School. Youth present data and policy recommendations on dropout prevention at Rhode Island’s GradNation summit, one of 105 summits happening nationwide inspire action regarding graduation rates.
In collaboration with Providence Student Union, Young Voices hosts a Providence Mayoral Forum. At this event, all Mayoral Candidates sign a youth-created platform that focused on student-centered learning and discipline reform. Working as part of a statewide coalition, Young Voices successfully supports the passing of legislature to prohibit the use of standardized testing as a part of school’s graduation requirement until at least 2017. Young Voices works with district staff to revise Providence’s Student Code of Conduct to include restorative practices and limit the use of suspensions.
Young Voices collaborates with Providence Student Union to create the Providence Youth Caucus, a partnership of six youth-based organizations in Providence. Youth meet with Governor Raimondo, Mayor Elorza, and Interim Superintendent Maher to push for more personalized learning and reform disciplinary practices. Youth conduct a statewide research project involving over 2,000 youth from Providence, Pawtucket, and Central Falls. The research is presented to the Superintendent of Providence Schools and promotes more funding for restorative practices.
Young Voices commemorates its 10th year of service to Rhode Island youth. Young Voices formally launches its College Access program to provide additional postsecondary access and financial counseling services. The Rhode Island General Assembly passes a law that restricts the use of out- of-school suspensions to situations when a child’s behavior poses a demonstrable threat that cannot be dealt with by other means. Youth testified in support of this legislation.
Young Voices members at Blackstone Academy organize and host their first-ever Youth-Led Summit in April that gathers over 50 students from Pawtucket, Providence and Central Falls to discuss meaningful social issues and brainstorm solutions. Young Voices oversees the passage of a revised student code of conduct policy for Providence public schools.
Young Voices leads the Providence Journal's schools-in-crisis forum on the state of decay in Rhode Island's urban school districts, providing systematic and research-based recommendations for improvement.
Young Voices launches BACS 2.0 at Blackstone Academy to ensure students have an equitable seat at the decision-making table in their school redesign. Youth on the GRL PWR policy action team convene the first joint meeting between the City Council and School Board to discuss their policy brief on implementing restorative justice practices in Rhode Island schools.
Youth testify on behalf of legislation that would severely limit out-of-school suspensions and other punitive practices in Providence public schools. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Young Voices transitions its programming to be 100% virtual throughout the school year and provides additional support services to students in need. Peter Chung is named Young Voices' second-ever Executive Director.
Young Voices commemorates its 15th year of service to Rhode Island youth with the launch of a new website and updated branding campaign.