A blue tinted photo of a graduation behind text that says cancel student debt

Back to School, Deeper in Debt

With millions of students going back to school and the student loan payment pause ending in a few months, it is vital that we keep up the pressure on the Biden Administration and our legislators to cancel student debt. Young people deserve a fair shot at an affordable and accessible education. Help young people live out their dreams, not live in debt. 

Paying for school is one of the largest stressors for students. While the United States has built financial aid systems like FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to lessen the financial burden, these systems fall short. About $1.7 trillion short.

Our current financial aid system for higher education is not working because it was not built for our generation.

A graphic with a photo of Amara next to a quote of her student debt story

Meet Amara, a student loan borrower and Program Director with Forward Montana. FAFSA did not account for Amara’s lived experiences and unique financial situation barring her from receiving financial aid and forcing her to work 60+ hours a week to afford school.

Tell us your student debt story here.

FAFSA, created over 50 years ago, does not account for students who have children, students who do not come from two-parent and double-income households, students who are responsible for supporting their families, and more.

Young people make up the largest, most diverse generation in our nation’s history. We deserve a financial aid system that reflects us.

Amara is one of many youth organizers in the Alliance Network who have been taking action to battle the student debt crisis. Virginia Student Power Network fought and won in-state tuition for undocumented students expanding financial aid access to an often under-resourced community. New Era Colorado passed the Student Loan Equity Act—a trailblazing bill that would create protections for private student loan borrowers in Colorado. The Ohio Student Association is currently working to end the “Transcript Trap”—the punitive practice of withholding transcripts for minor debts to the institution. Learn more about how Alliance Network organizations are building a debt-free future. Young people are showing up in their local communities to fight for students but it is not enough. We need federal action.

How you can take action

Whether you currently have student debt, paid it off, or never had it, student debt is an issue that affects everyone. And we are calling on our community to take action with us. Tell the Biden Administration that we need to cancel student debt, reform the student loan program, and make public colleges free for all. 

Once you sign the petition, please share on social!

Student debt affects our families, our loved ones, and our larger communities. It limits our ability to dream about building the future we deserve. Find more ways to take action with our Dreams Not Debt campaign here.

A photo of a group of Engage Miami organizers posing and smiling by the water

How People Powered Movements Win

Young people’s impact on the 2020 election was resounding, creating a fervor for progressive change that has continued into 2021. Young people are at the forefront of breaking down barriers to accessing democracy and taking action on issues that matter most in state houses, city council chambers, school board meetings, and more. The Alliance’s network of youth-led organizations have employed a wide array of tools and tactics to build our generation’s political power at scale. From legislative advocacy to holding our elected leaders accountable — this work would be under resourced without flexible funding from individual donors. Putting your resources behind 501(c)(4) organizations, like the Alliance for Youth Action, allows for full-spectrum political organizing and education to enable the greatest impact possible. Take the Alliance Voter Guide for example — our c4 voter guides provide clear, concise, issue-based contrasts between candidates and measures on the ballot to ensure young people have the information they need when it’s time to vote.

Monthly donors, or sustainers, are vital to powering this work and building the infrastructure needed to transform our communities and our country. 

The Alliance launched our monthly sustainer program in late 2019 to build a broad base of grassroots donors who care deeply about our mission. Our monthly donors are one of our greatest assets. Here’s why they are committed to our work for the long haul:  

MOVE Texas organizers with masks posing in front of a"vote here" sign

Movement Building

Small donors come together to work for change and can see the lasting impact of their gift, no matter how small. Not everyone can volunteer, make calls, or show up in person, but a monthly donation of any size can help bring more people into our movement.

OSA organizers posing with masks on

Sustainability

Recurring support helps keep organizations’ doors open by providing a steady, predictable stream of funding that organizations like ours can rely on every month.

Two young organizers with masks on and clipboards

Grasssroots Impact

Sustainers have the opportunity to support crucial grassroots political and issue organizing to create change in local communities.

Our sustainer program helps to ensure that we are an independent, sustainable and people-powered organization.

Albrecht Moritz, one of our wonderful monthly donors, had this to say about his ongoing support:

“Even “off” years are important, because you still need to use the time to maintain and further build infrastructure and information about voters. Elections happen all the time as well, especially on the local level. Young voters literally are the future of our country”

— Albrecht Moritz, Monthly Donor

Albrecht’s sustaining contribution is helping us build long-term people power that will endure well beyond the next election. Our network of young leaders and organizations are in their communities for the long haul, not like the one-off campaigns that come and go each cycle. Every day, we support the young people that are showing up and fighting for the change we want to see in the world,  and our monthly donors are crucial in this fight. 

Learn more about our sustainer program and start your monthly contribution today. 

6 organizers with Ohio Student Association posing against a wall with masks and clipboards

Hot Organizing Summer  😎

Alliance Network Summer 2021 Plans: Learn ✅ Organize ✅ Rest ✅ 

As summer wraps up, we are looking back at the incredible work youth organizers in our network put in to develop strong youth leaders in their communities and organize to fight racist voter suppression all while setting aside the invaluable time to restore through self-care. Here is how the Alliance Network crushed their summer to-do list: 

Alliance Network Summer 2021 Plan: Learn ✅

Network organizations fostered the development and civic education of over 100 young people through internships, fellowships, and other organizing programs

This includes Leaders Igniting Transformation’s famous Black Hogwarts program where young organizers are trained to become the next leaders in Wisconsin. The Washington Bus, Virginia Student Power Network, North Carolina Asian Americans Together, Forward Montana welcomed summer interns and fellows to their organizations. These leadership development programs not only help more young people find their political homes, but they also grow the next generation of young leaders.

Alliance Network Summer 2021 Plans: Organize ✅ 

Online and in the field, we saw organizations continue to do what they do best — organize. Here is what just a few Alliance Network organizations were up to this summer.

Engage Miami

Engage Miami hosted a summer social where they gathered with donors, members, and volunteers to celebrate their growth and wins over the years.

Forward Montana

Forward Montana spent their summer registering voters across the state at everything from the Montana Fair to local farmers markets.

Leaders Igniting Transformation

Organizers with Leaders Igniting Transformation held a demonstration in Milwaukee and La Crosse where students used shoeboxes re-decorated to look like bricks to “build” the school of their dreams. This activation was part of a nationwide week of action to push the Youth Mandate.

MOVE Texas

This summer, MOVE Texas kept up their relentless fight to block voter suppression efforts by conservative legislators. They testified late into the night at the Texas legislature advocating against anti-voter legislation and hosted rallies near the Texas Capitol to raise awareness on the issue.

Minnesota Youth Collective

Minnesota Youth Collective gathered signatures for the “Keep St. Paul Home” campaign to stabilize rent prices and for the Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign to allow for a public-health-focused Department of Public Safety as an alternative to a police-only model. They also launched their MinneDesk Concert series on social media!

Ohio Student Association

Ohio Student Association worked in coalition with the Citizens for a Safer Cleveland campaign to get an initiative on the ballot that would increase police accountability and create a civilian police review board. After canvassing their community for signatures, the initiative is officially on the ballot!

Alliance Network Summer 2021 Plans: Rest ✅ 

But it was not all hard work and no play! Organizations across the network (including the Alliance staff!) took time this summer to rest and recharge after working non-stop this year to keep their communities engaged and elected officials accountable. In the words of Chicago Votes, “You cannot pour from an empty cup. Resting is radical.”

This summer, the Alliance Network took the time to foster and develop the skills of young people to take action by learning how to effectively testify, march, and fight for progressive policies that will help our people thrive. Youth organizers know that creating political homes where young people can fight for our communities while having a safe space to rest is how we build towards a better future. 

This is how we build a movement that is truly of young people, by young people, for all people.

Graphic with three photos of VP Kamala Harris, Storm Reid, and Sarah Audelo

Voting Rights & Youth: A Conversation with Storm Reid and VP Kamala Harris

Alliance Executive Director, Sarah Audelo, joined actress and activist Storm Reid and Vice President Kamala Harris in a special Instagram Live conversation about voting rights, the power of the youth vote, and important issues young people are fighting for right now. We also highlighted some of the incredible voting rights work youth-led organizations in the Alliance Network are leading on.

Watch the full conversation on our Instagram:

Young organizers, including those in the Alliance Network, are at the forefront of the fight for voting rights. From passing legislation that expands our democracy to blocking voter suppression efforts, young people are taking charge in their communities. But we can’t do it alone. We need these local efforts to be supported by federal action and legislation. Learn more about how you can take action in your local community and at the federal level.

people protesting and voting surrounding the words "protect our freedom to vote"

4 ways you can protect our freedom to vote

Our vote is one of our most powerful tools for change, and right now, our voting rights are under attack.

State legislatures are targeting voting rights in an effort to silence young people and people of color. And major legislation to expand voting access at the federal level is being blocked by racist and outdated processes like the filibuster, while Democrats are not taking this threat to our democracy seriously. In this country, no matter our background or zip code, we value our freedom – including our freedom to vote. Our elected leaders must ensure we can safely and freely cast our ballots, have our voices heard, and elect leaders who deliver on our priorities.  When our people cannot vote, our voices are silenced and we cannot elect representatives who reflect our values. Our vote is our power.

Youth-led organizations in the Alliance Network are fighting back to defend our democracy, but we need everyone in this fight. 

1 Tell the Senate to end the filibuster

The filibuster is a ‘Jim Crow relic’ that congress members are weaponizing to keep our democracy rigged. Senate Republicans have already used it to block critical legislation and have promised to use it to prevent landmark voting legislation like the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act from passing. In order to pass the legislation to protect democracy, we must get rid of the filibuster.

2 Tell the Senate to pass the For the People Act

The For the People Act is one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation to expand our democracy by ending gerrymandering, getting big money out of politics, and combating voter suppression. Its passage would be a monumental step in the right direction of building a democracy that works for all. We need you to call your Senators and tell them to pass the For the People Act.

3 Tell the Senate to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

Republicans are attacking voting rights across the country largely affecting communities of color. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore critical provisions of the Voting Rights Act and protect our freedom to vote. Call your Senators and tell them we must pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

4 Donate to local youth-led organizations fighting for voting rights 

Youth-led organizations like MOVE Texas, Loud Light, Forward Montana, and more are fighting to protect the right to vote and expand voting access. Donate and support these organizations in the network so we can continue to protect our democracy. 

Youth organizers have been putting in the work to welcome people into our democracy and ensure their freedom to vote despite years of legislation making it harder to vote. Now, we need the President and Congress to be as bold as organizers on the ground because there is too much at stake. It is time to end the filibuster so legislation like the John Lewis Advancement Act and the For the People Act can pass. The future of our democracy hangs in the balance.

Youth organizers stand in front of the Texas capitol holding red signs that say "Stop voter suppression'

Youth organizers take on state legislatures

Young people have been at the forefront of the most critical fights for our communities taking place in state legislatures. Alliance Network organizations are mobilizing their communities to pass innovative policies that strengthen our democracy and block harmful legislation that threatens it.  

Here is how they did it.

Building a Democracy Done Right

young people registering incarcerated citizens to vote at table inside the Cook County Jail

Chicago Votes | Voting in Prison

Chicago Votes has been leading some of the most revolutionary voting rights work through their Unlock Civics program. In 2019, they wrote and passed landmark legislation – the Voting in Jails bill – that expanded voting access for incarcerated citizens who were eligible to vote. Now, they are organizing to pass new legislation they wrote that would restore voting rights to people in prison. Learn more about their 2021 Unlock Civic Policy Platform here.

Next Up | Voting Rights Restoration & Lowering the Voting Age

Next Up is co-leading landmark legislation that would restore voting rights to incarcerated Oregonians. This bill would not only restore voting rights, it would also address the disproportionate silencing of the voices of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx citizens due to their higher rates of imprisonment. Next Up is also leading legislation that would allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in school board elections.

The Washington Bus | Restoring Voting Rights

The Washington Bus helped to pass legislation that automatically restores voting rights to people convicted of a felony.

Advocating for Students

Leaders Igniting Transformation | Divesting from Campus Police

Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT) is fighting for an end to the policing and criminalization of BIPOC populations on Wisconsin’s public university and college campuses by divesting financial resources from policing and reinvesting those funds into restorative justice, community care, and supporting BIPOC populations.

New Era Colorado | Student Loan Equity & Improving Financial Literacy

New Era Colorado helped lead the passage of the Student Loan Equity Act—a trailblazing bill that would create protections for private student loan borrowers in Colorado. Right now, private student loans don’t receive many of the basic protections afforded to borrowers of other types of loans. As a result, borrowers are vulnerable to shady loan industry practices, like robo signing and auto-defaulting. Their bill protects these borrowers, creates greater transparency, and offers better recourse if lenders break the law. New Era Colorado is also leading legislation that would dramatically improve the existing financial literacy education provided to high school students. The legislation would update school standards for financial literacy to include costs of obtaining a degree, student loan information, financial aid information, how to save for retirement, and how to manage credit cards.

Ohio Student Association | Fighting the Transcript Trap

The Ohio Student Association has mobilized their student base to fight back against the Transcript Trap — a punitive practice that penalizes students with debts to their institution until repayment is complete by withholding transcripts.

Virginia Student Power Network | Financial Aid for Undocumented Students

Virginia Student Power Network worked in a broad coalition and engaged 30 student leaders to advocate for and pass in-state tuition for undocumented students. This makes Virginia the seventh state in the nation to give undocumented students access to state financial aid!

Other Major Legislation

Chicago Votes | Ending Prison Slave Labor

Chicago Votes is leading legislation that would expand the state minimum wage to include people serving a sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections and increase the state pay to all people in Illinois prisons.

Forward Montana | Indigenous People’s Rights

Forward Montana worked in coalition to pass legislation that would extend the Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force beyond its termination date later this year and require the task force to examine and report on the causes contributing to missing indigenous persons cases.Forward Montana helped pass legislation that would extend the Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force beyond its termination date later this year and require the task force to examine and report on the causes contributing to missing indigenous persons cases.

The Washington Bus | Banning For-Profit Private Prisons

The Washington Bus worked in coalition with advocates to approve a ban on private, for-profit prisons. As a result, the Northwest Detention Center, the private immigrant detention center in Tacoma, WA, will be closed by 2025.

Fighting harmful legislation

Alliance Network organizations also faced a hostile and aggressive legislative environment where conservative legislators threatened the right to vote, the right to protest, the right to healthcare, and more.

  • Forward Montana led a fierce accountability campaign to call out electeds for supporting legislation that would strip voting rights, harm the LGBTQIA community, and allow guns on campus.  
  • Loud Light activated youth organizers across the state to call their legislators and fight against two voter suppression bills. They also fought against legislation barring trans athletes from competing in school sports.
  • Mississippi Votes worked extensively to track and successfully block legislation that would restrict voting rights and mandate voting purges targeting low-income voters and communities of color.
  • MOVE Texas is one of the most powerful organizations in the state fighting back against racist voter suppression bills in Texas where Republican lawmakers focused more on undermining the freedom to vote than providing necessary relief from the pandemic or the winter freeze. But thanks to unrelenting commitment and dedication, MOVE Texas fought back to stop the horrible anti-voter legislation in its tracks during the final hours of the legislative session. They will continue the fight in a special session in July.
  • New Hampshire Youth Movement worked to defeat four anti-student voting rights bills by driving thousands of messages to lawmakers and turning out students from around the state to testify. One of these bills would have required student voters to provide proof they pay in-state tuition to cast a ballot. 

Thanks to the tenacity of these organizations, some of these harmful pieces of legislation were blocked. However, some of them did pass but this does not mean organizations are backing down. Forward Montana is suing the state over legislation that, if implemented, may face steep penalties for conducting voter engagement activities on college campuses. Loud Light is suing the state of Kansas over a voter suppression law that makes it more difficult for their organizers to register voters. 

Even after state legislative sessions come to a close, youth organizers will keep fighting from the streets to the ballot box to ensure that young people’s priorities are elevated.

youth organizers on a stage in front of a banner that says no cops in our schools

This Juneteenth we are celebrating the local fights for Black liberation

President Joe Biden signed into law the bill that makes Juneteenth – the commemoration of the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States – a federal holiday, but this isn’t enough to keep the legacy of Juneteenth alive. There is still work to be done to ensure that all Black people in the United States are seen in their full humanity and treated as such. 

That is why this Juneteenth, the Alliance is celebrating the youth organizers who fight for equal justice and liberation that has yet to be delivered to Black people across the country. Here is how Alliance Network organizations are fighting for Black liberation every day.

Restoring Voting Rights

Chicago Votes has been leading some of the most revolutionary voting rights through their Unlock Civics program. In 2019, they wrote and passed landmark legislation – the Voting in Jails bill – that expanded voting access for incarcerated citizens who were eligible to vote. This made Cook County Jail the first jail in the country to become an official polling location allowing for 1,500 people in pretrial detention to vote. Now, they are organizing to pass new legislation they wrote that would restore voting rights to people in prison. Learn more about their 2021 Unlock Civic Policy Platform here.

young people registering incarcerated citizens to vote at table inside the Cook County Jail

Next Up is organizing to pass legislation to restore voting rights to Oregonians in prison. This bill would not only restore voting rights, it would also address the disproportionate silencing of the voices of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx citizens due to their higher rates of imprisonment. Read more about the need for voting rights restoration in their latest report.

This legislative session, the Washington Bus organized to help pass legislation that would immediately restore the right to vote for Washingtonians who are convicted of a felony and released from jail, removing complicated and expensive barriers for returning citizens.

Getting Cops out of Schools

Since their founding in 2018, Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT) has been at the forefront of the fight to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline in their community by fighting to remove the presence of police at Milwaukee Public Schools. They have blocked TSA-style metal detectors from schools and decreased police presence in and around schools.

In 2020, after years of organizing, public pressure, and over 1,000 testimonies, the Milwaukee Public School Board unanimously passed a resolution to end all contracts between the Milwaukee Police Department and Milwaukee Public Schools! Thanks to LIT’s tireless work, Milwaukee Public Schools is on a pathway to building safer schools where the voices and experiences of young people are centered.

Now, LIT is calling for Wisconsin universities to divest from policing on campuses and reinvest those funds to support BIPOC communities and students in their Dare to Divest campaign.

youth organizers on a stage in front of a banner that says no cops in our schools

The Virginia Student Power Network is demanding the immediate dissolution and abolition of the Virginia Commonwealth University police department. They are also calling on the university system to re-allocate those funds to directly support Black and Brown students on campus and increasing support for University Counseling Services. In May of this year, they took direct action across the state and dropped banners on campuses calling for cops off campus.

Defunding the Police and Holding Them Accountable

Minnesota Youth Collective is working in coalition with Yes 4 Minneapolis—a Black-led, multiracial campaign composed of grassroots, community organizations and individuals who are organizing for community safety. They are collecting signatures for the People’s Petition which gives Minneapolis voters the opportunity to create a Department of Public Safety that takes a comprehensive public health approach to community safety.

Along with their coalition work on the Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign, Minnesota Youth Collective is also hosting a monthly book club, MNYC Reads, to engage members of their base in conversations around police abolition, public safety, and reimagining the world through the eyes of prolific Black writers.

Young organizers tabling and collecting signatures at a table outside near a sign that says "for a new Minneapolis Department of Public Safety

New Hampshire Youth Movement is supporting the efforts of  local Black Lives Matter chapters to defund the police and reinvest that money in local communities across the state. They are hosting trainings for young people to learn how they can support this work in Manchester, Keene, and Dover by focusing on city council budgets and ballot initiatives. New Hampshire Youth Movement also hosted letter writing workshops for young people to write to their local leaders about reinvesting resources away from police departments and into community services and health initiatives.

Ohio Student Association (OSA) is working in coalition to canvass, host educational events, and collect signatures to pass the Citizens for a Safer Cleveland ballot initiative. This initiative would ensure independent civilian oversight of investigations into police misconduct and give final authority on discipline decisions to a board of community leaders. This week, they submitted over 14,000 signatures to get the initiative on the ballot!

Youth organizers in the Alliance Network know that the fight for Black liberation will transform our communities and create a better future for us all. We’re grateful for their leadership always – but especially today. 

How Local Organizations are Building a Debt-Free Future

We believe that higher education should be free and accessible for all. While we are trying to solve the $1.7 trillion student debt crisis at the federal level, it is critical that action be taken at the local level to protect students. That’s why youth-led organizations in the Alliance for Youth Action Network are fighting to protect student borrowers and ensure higher education at every level is accessible and affordable for all.

Here is how they are doing it.

New Era Colorado

New Era Colorado is currently working to pass the Student Loan Equity Act—a trailblazing bill that would create protections for private student loan borrowers in Colorado. Right now, private student loans don’t receive many of the basic protections afforded to borrowers of other types of loans. As a result, borrowers are vulnerable to shady loan industry practices, like robo signing and auto-defaulting. Their bill will protect these borrowers, create greater transparency, and offer better recourse if lenders break the law.

Ohio Student Association

Since its formation in 2012, the Ohio Student Association has fought for more affordable and accessible education for all students, regardless of race or income. This mission has guided their work and advocacy around student debt cancellation, financial aid expansion, and the end of harmful punitive policies such as transcript withholding. The Ohio Student Debt Association has worked hard to center student voices in these fights and uplift student debt stories. They are working in coalition with other organizations across the state to tackle student debt. Read their latest report with Policy Matters Ohio on higher education in Ohio. They recently met with Senator Sherrod Brown and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur to share student debt stories.

Virginia Student Power Network

Virginia Student Power Network has a track record of organizing and winning issue-based campaigns for college affordability across the state. In 2014, they won a campaign to create a $1 million emergency fund at George Mason University for low-income, first-generation, undocumented, and homeless students. For four years in a row, they have mobilized students for annual advocacy days at the General Assembly calling for an end to student debt and free public college. 

During the 2020 legislative session, Virginia Student Power Network worked in a broad coalition and engaged 30 student leaders to advocate for in-state tuition for undocumented students, which was selected by the Governor as a priority bill and was written into law after a 15-year fight. They built upon this work during the 2021 legislative session, and Virginia is now the seventh state in the nation to give undocumented students access to state financial aid!

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they launched a statewide pressure campaign on universities to provide equitable COVID-19 relief to students, staff, and community members. They conducted research on federal CARES Act and American Rescue funding to Virginia schools to illuminate the fact that universities were still profiting from the deadly pandemic while students were incurring more debt than ever. Student organizers at the University of Virginia fought and won a tuition freeze through their “COVID Action Now” campaign. VCU student organizers held a town hall with administration and hundreds of students, faculty and staff to hold the university accountable for mishandling the pandemic. 

They will continue to advance statewide and campus-based campaigns around public safety and fighting the corporatization of higher education, including getting cops off of campus and student COVID-19 relief.

Washington Bus

This legislative session, the Washington Bus helped to pass the Our Colleges our Future Act! They won a $33 million investment in Community and Technical Colleges (CTCs) in Washington State, with a focus on racial equity and investment in low-income, BIPoC students.  This bill included mandating diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plans for all CTCs in Washington, winning funding for 200 new full-time faculty positions, funding for a pilot mental health counseling program, and funding for outreach and retention program for BIPoC students. The Our Colleges Our Future Act also changed residency requirements to make financial aid more accessible for undocumented students. Community Colleges are the backbone of our higher education system, and the Washington Bus worked tirelessly alongside partners to make sure they are investing in the education of BIPoC and low-income students. 

headshot of Sarah Audelo next to a quote

My Transition from the Alliance

The time has come to usher in new leadership here at the Alliance. 

After four incredible years at the Alliance for Youth Action, I will transition out of the organization later this year.  It has been an incredible honor and privilege to serve as the Alliance’s Executive Director and I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished. 

  • Growing the network to expand in more communities, centering more young people of color.
  • Pushing more money to field organizations and young organizers than we ever could have imagined.
  • Uplifting our growing network of youth organizers who are building the country we all want and deserve 365 days a year by registering hundreds of thousands of young voters, training thousands of young leaders, passing laws, and pushing candidates on the issues young people care about most. 
  • Shifting the narrative on the youth vote and youth organizing.
  • Building an incredible team that continues to innovate, inspire, and drive the work forward. 

As a product of the investment in youth leadership, I know the importance of making room for new leaders and new ideas. This year is a great time to transition leadership as we continue to build a future that is centered in love, joy, justice, and liberation.  

So, I encourage you to do a few things:

  • Share the job posting. Be sure to share the Executive Director job posting with your network. We want to cast a wide net and be sure we attract candidates who will bring new ideas and energy to the organization.
  • Fuel the movement. The Alliance Network works 365 days a year knocking doors, texting our lists, and contacting millions of our peers to turn up and turn out in ways that are authentic and powerful. We invest in young leaders and strengthen the capacity of their organizations to do this crucial organizing. Consider becoming a monthly donor to help us continue to build for the future. 
  • Stay tuned. Of course, this won’t be the last time you hear from me before I go. I can’t wait to share with you what I’ve learned. 

The Alliance is in the strongest place in the history of our organization because of the network of innovative and badass youth organizers, skilled and dedicated staff, and a smart and strategic board of directors. I am confident that we have set the organization up for a thoughtful and successful transition. 

I look forward to updating you along the way. Now, I’ve got to get back to work!

With deep gratitude, 

Sarah
Executive Director

P.S. I couldn’t be more proud of all that we accomplished in 2020. Be sure to check out our 2020 Annual Report: Joy, Resiliency, Innovation we released last week!

Organizers with New Era Colorado posing with voter guides

Resistance & Resilience: 2020 Political Recap

For almost a decade, the Alliance for Youth Action network has led groundbreaking youth electoral engagement across the country. Our network has been building for this moment and in 2020, we had our biggest year yet. Together, we made over 25 million contacts with young voters in 2020. This output reflects the incredible efforts by our network of 20 local grassroots organizations as well as the Alliance’s first-ever national mail voter contact program that served to help fill youth infrastructure gaps in key states. 

We worked alongside progressive partners in the youth sector to shift the youth vote narrative and uplift local young BIPOC organizers. The Alliance conducted a series of partisan polling to further inform the sector and push candidates on the issues that matter to young people. Despite facing unprecedented challenges, the Alliance empowered millions of young people to flex their political power this year, making a historic impact on the most important election of our lifetimes.

Check it out:

Shifting the Youth Vote Narrative

“Go To Source” on Youth Vote

In 2020 we conducted a series of polls to amplify the Alliance as a “go to source” on the youth vote, change the narrative about the youth vote, and push candidates on the issues that young people care about.

We kicked off the year with a national poll surveying Democratic and Democratic-leaning Independents ages 17 – 35 showing that young people are issues-first voters who by and large had yet to be contacted by Democratic candidates as the first contests of the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary were underway. 

Starting in Summer of 2020, we released monthly polling on progressive youth in battleground states to help shape the youth vote narrative, uplift the issues young people prioritize, and flag engagement (or lack thereof) from the Biden campaign. Over time, we saw a slow, but steady increase in the Biden campaign contacting the young voters they needed most from nearly half (43%) not being contacted in July 2020 to three-quarters (75%) of young swing state persuadable voters saying they had been contacted by the Biden campaign less than two weeks before the election. Our five monthly polls have led to stories in multiple outlets The Hill and MSNBC. After the election, we ran a final poll of the young people who propelled President Biden and Vice President Harris to victory that dug into their issue priorities and commitment to future organizing. 

Digital Metrics on Polls 

Site visits to Alliance’s research page: 13,286
Organic impressions from social about polls: 66,865
*Polls are high-performing content on Instagram and Twitter
Paid media impressions about polls: 276,193

Youth Letter to Biden

On April 8th, the Alliance for Youth Action released an open letter to then presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in coalition with seven national Millennial and Generation Z progressive organizations – IfNotNow Movement, Justice Democrats, March for Our Lives Action Fund, NextGen America, Student Action, Sunrise Movement, and United We Dream Action. This open letter expressed concern over VP Biden’s inability to earn the trust of the vast majority of Generation Z and Millennial voters and demanded a number of policies and personnel commitments he should prioritize to bridge the generational divide in the Democratic Party. The open letter was released just hours after Senator Bernie Sanders announced the suspension of his campaign, which helped garner media attention in early April. Major press hits and media opportunities for the Alliance included the following: 

New York Times Editorial Board Op-Ed: Hey Kids! Get Out There and Vote

Sarah’s Letter to the Editor in response to NYT Editorial Board’s op-ed

The Hill: Progressives look for concession from Biden with running mate

LA Times: Inspired by Bernie Sanders, young progressives are headed to a political seat near you

NowThis: Biden Letter video (featuring our Communications Manager, Daniela!) >>>

After the release of the letter, we saw important movement on the issues young people care about most, shifts in the way the campaign spoke about their work, many of the personnel demands added to the Biden-Sanders unity task force, and increased contact by the Biden campaign to young voters. 

Additional Press

POLITICO

Starting in June 2020, our monthly poll series was key in changing the youth vote narrative and pushing candidates on the issues that matter most to young people. This Politico article rang the alarm on the lack of Biden campaign contact.

MSNBC

On August 8th, Sarah was on MSNBC Live with Alicia Menendez with Alliance Board member, Ben Wessel, to discuss how VP Biden can earn the youth vote

Mail to Persuade & Mobilize

To help fill gaps in c4 youth infrastructure in particular, the Alliance for Youth Action ran a four piece mail program targeting 18-25 year olds in GA, NC, and PA. Between August and October, we sent 4 pieces of persuasion and mobilization mail to nearly 700,000 young voters in these three states. Our mail pieces provided information about Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Kamala Harris, and their plans to address the issues young people care about. 

With additional support, we were able to expand our initial program into South Carolina and Texas. In South Carolina, we sent one mobilization mail piece to over 300,000 young voters with information about Jaime Harrison. In Texas, we repurposed creative from the original three-state presidential persuasion program and mailed it to nearly 1 million young Texans. This expanded Texas program was intended to fill a gap identified by our local Affiliate, MOVE Texas, targeting 18-39 year olds in targeted Congressional Districts, State House Districts, and key counties. In total, we sent 4,015,236 individual pieces to a universe of nearly 2 MM young people in GA, NC, PA, SC and TX that are typically left out of other traditional persuasion and mobilization efforts. Overall more than half of the combined mail universe voted, including more than 400,000 people who had never voted in a general election before.

See more pets with our mailers here

We worked with partners to get additional texts sent to follow up with some of our mail targets. Color of Change PAC texted approximately 70,000 voters within our South Carolina mobilization universe and NextGen America texted and called about 200,000 voters within our Texas persuasion universe, with a particular emphasis on El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley.

Preparing for the Georgia Senate Runoff Elections 

Ahead of the crucial federal runoff elections in Georgia that were set to determine control of the US Senate, the Alliance ran a text, mail, and call program from mid-November to Election Day to reach young voters. Building on our 2020 general election work in Georgia, we focused on messaging on turnout: absentee ballot request, absentee ballot chase, early voting information, turnout/election day information, and social pressure.

Through this program, we sent 1.53 million text messages, 830,000 pieces of mail, and made more than 820,000 calls to a universe of 980,000 young Georgians. Our universe targeted young voters of color, of whom 75% were young Black voters. This program turned out 378,871 voters in the runoff, including 35,505 young people who didn’t vote in the November general election.

The 2020 Alliance Voter Guide

Research has shown that when young people don’t turn out to vote, many will point to two main reasons: 

  • 1. They believe all politicians are the same 
  • 2. They could not find reliable information about the candidates.

At the same time, polling shows that young voters’ top reason for turning out is to make a difference on the issues they care about. Enter the Alliance Voter Guide. Since 2014, the Alliance network has run a c4 voter guide program that provides clear, concise, issue-based contrasts between candidates and measures on the ballot.

In preparation for this historic election year, the Alliance overhauled and revamped our voter guide generator that local groups used to create over a million localized print guides. We also worked with BallotReady to support the creation of digital guides across the network this year.

Young people solidified their power in 2020 with an estimated 50% national youth voter turnout in the Presidential election! Be sure to check out our full 2020 Digital Annual Report to learn more about some of the youth organizations and organizers behind these results.