For seven years, youth organizations in LA pushed for the creation of a youth development department within the city. They met with city council members and organized rallies with students from across the county.
Now it’s finally happening.
After months of board discussions, the department was approved in April, which means the city of LA is now beginning the process of defining and defining what it will look like.
“I hope to see a lot of these department heads and adults take this opportunity to remove many of these barriers that young people face – things like political jargon or even college applications,” said Monica Rodriguez, who is the student council representative for the youth development working group on the project.
The Youth Development Department will centralize the city’s resources for 800,000 young people in the city, providing adolescents and children aged 10 to 25 years with access to services such as career preparation, youth counseling and leadership programs, depending on to Lou Calanche, founder of the Legacy LA youth organization, which has been lobbying for the department since 2014. The new department will merge the youth programs currently available in the 26 different departments in the city of LA.
“One of my more personal goals for the department is to really sit down and talk to the youth of LA and hear their stories, and understand directly from them, from those who receive services from the city, let’s- us a good job? “said Lisa Salazar, who was appointed interim executive director of the youth development department in July.
The department was an important victory for many young activists. As of October 2018, over 300 LA city students have come together to form the Invest in Youth Coalition, with the support of other LA County groups, to lobby for centralized youth development that would listen. young people
voice and invest in their needs. The creation of a youth development task force led by board member Monica Rodriguez and chaired by Calanche created a master plan for the new department, in the hopes that the city would follow suit.
“Really, it shows that we have strength in numbers,” said Rodriguez, the student representative. “They have to listen to us because we are presenting ourselves, you know, we are voices that have to be listened to.”
Student representatives Rodriguez and Michelle Gutierrez said they want expansion in areas such as mental health, access to technology and help with college applications and career planning.
“Having a fully funded and fully implemented mental health program within this youth development department would really benefit the youth of the city of Los Angeles,” said Gutierrez. “When you are really struggling with a mental illness or mental health issues, you will need to access these services so this is a program that I look forward to seeing. “
Mayor Garcetti has allocated $ 1.1 million to the ministry, which will be the sole manager of funding and services surrounding youth programs so that funds and manpower can be properly allocated, Salazar said.
This year, the city will focus on building the department. Salazar is currently the only employee, but she plans to create eight more positions to focus on raising awareness in the department.
“I think the opportunities are endless, especially in light of the 2028 Olympics,” said Salazar. “They’ve pledged $ 160 million just to support young people in Los Angeles with sports, education, art, so we want to make sure we have a coordinated approach and that we are maximizing those dollars. “
She said she also hopes to develop a three-year strategic plan that will guide city-wide services and ensure funding goes to the right places. She also hopes to prepare a cumulative report of all of the city’s youth programs and services to assess how many people are receiving these resources.
“We want to make sure that we are effective, that we are all communicating here in order to meet the needs of young people,” said Salazar.