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, 

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


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.


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. 

graphic of 8 young asian organizers in 8 frames

Meet Asian Youth Organizers of the Alliance Network

We saw a major increase in Asian youth voter turnout in the 2020 election. This remarkable jump in turnout, the biggest increase among all groups by race, was fueled by the power of peer-to-peer organizing by young people who run local organizations like those in the Alliance Network. Youth organizers knew that to move our country forward it was critical to center young voters of color, including young Asian voters.

This month, we are featuring young Asian organizers in the Alliance Network who are building political power in their states during and beyond elections. Get to know them, learn about their stories, and how their identities influence their work.

picture of an asian woman, Erin Lee, in front of a pond


She/Her | Raleigh, NC
Youth Organizer at North Carolina Asian Americans Together (NCAAT)

▼ How do you organize in your community?

I currently work as the Youth Organizer at NCAAT (North Carolina Asian Americans Together). My role is to support the efforts of our Youth team in educating and empowering Asian American youth in North Carolina. In particular, I oversee our Youth Ambassadors program, a paid volunteer program for young Asian Americans to engage in and bring awareness to NCAAT’s work.

▼ How does your identity and heritage influence your organizing work?

On the worst days, being Korean American brings up a lot of complicated emotions that I channel into grace, empathy, and kindness for others who also feel like outsiders wherever they go.  On the best days, pride and gratitude for my identity as a child of Korean immigrants (now American citizens) and as a third-culture kid drives my passion for action and service. The oppression I face and the privileges I have as a Korean American woman is something I think about very seriously and it impacts the way that I move through my work.

▼ When speaking directly with young AAPI voters, what do they say are the most important issues to them? What matters to you?

Many young AAPI voters tell me about their passion for environmental justice, healthcare access, and racial justice. I think the societal and cultural context speaks for itself and a lot of what young AAPIs are trying to solve are the issues that they see around them and online. They’ve been handed a lot of problems that they didn’t ask for. I think especially recently with the recent attention on anti-Asian violence, a lot of them have been reflecting on their place in American society and what it means to be Asian American.

▼ Is there a lot of AAPI representation in the communities you organize in? How does that impact how you organize? What are the challenges and opportunities because of this?

Since we are an Asian American organization, within our space at NCAAT, we definitely see more diverse representation of AAPIs. However, not every ethnic or identity group is always represented and outside of our own Asian American spaces, it is incredibly difficult to find AAPIs in the broader nonprofit and advocacy space. It makes us that much more cognizant of doing everything we can to include and uplift voices outside of our own. It is definitely uncomfortable, but it pushes us to keep going because we know how much work there is still left to be done.

▼ There was a massive jump in AAPI voter turnout last cycle. How did your work relate to this? Why do you think there has been such an increase in young AAPI voter turnout? 

As I joined the organization after the elections, my part in the huge increase in AAPI voters showing up to the polls last cycle is limited to my own ballot and my role as poll worker. I think one big factor for this great AAPI turnout was the incredible work and effort that nonprofits and organizations all over the nation took to educate our communities and stir up their political interest. Secondly, more Asian immigrants who came over in the influx of Asian immigrants in the last two decades have become citizens and their children are growing up.  These voters know that they have a voice and they’re going to make it heard. 

Young asian woman outside in the grass smiling

Ileana Rivera

She/Her | Boulder, CO
Organizational Fellow at New Era Colorado

▼ How do you organize in your community?

 I organize with Boulder Valley Mutual Aid and Denver Community Fridges to combat food insecurity and provide gear to our unhoused neighbors in the greater Denver Area.

▼ How does your identity and heritage influence your organizing work?

 As a BIPOC person with immigrant family members, we’ve always heard that you’re supposed to pull yourself up from the boot straps, which I do not agree with. The brightest future I can see, we’ll get there together.

▼ Is there a lot of AAPI representation in the communities you organize in? How does that impact how you organize? What are the challenges and opportunities because of this?

 I think a lot about the model minority myth, and how many Asian Americans feel the pressure to achieve, rather than “complain”. But in reality, using your voice even at the lowest level of organizing is one of the most powerful things you can do. There is solidarity in numbers, and representation. The communities I organize in are predominately white spaces which is unfortunate because I feel like a lot of the work and emotional labor is put on BIPOC folks.

Young asian woman in business attire in front of building

Kristina Samuel

She/They | San Antonio, TX
Civic Leadership Fellow at MOVE Texas

▼ How do you organize in your community?

For a little over a year, I have been organizing with MOVE Texas and am coming up on the 1 year anniversary of starting a chapter of the nonprofit at my University, Texas A&M. We have since then led a successful GOTV initiative on our campus and surrounding Brazos county area, have recruited active members involved in our community such as climate change lobbying and phone/text banking, expanded to a fully VDR trained officer team, and have established our presence as a student organization on one of the largest college campuses in the country. I personally have also served as a poll worker during a presidential election year and have testified in the Texas Senate this past February in front of the redistricting committee against gerrymandering. I seek to contribute as an individual and on behalf of the chapter I started at my university to broaden the impact of civic engagement and progressive policy advocacy in my community as much as I can.

▼ How does your identity and heritage influence your organizing work?

Identifying as a first generation Asian American has definitely played a role in my organizing, especially on my college campus. It is an interesting dynamic however, in being mixed race and not necessarily looking of Asian descent. I am half South Indian however, I have been mistaken to be of many different ethnicities, usually not of Asian heritage. It makes it hard to stay tied to my very prevalent Indian culture that I grew up with and feel as if the community supports me back. However, it has made me extremely self aware in the perceptions and preconceived notions that can be made about peoples’ identities and experiences. It constantly plays a role in organizing in that I attempt to create the most inclusive and safe spaces, even if it isn’t something that is considered “normal”. Although not easy, I believe that my identity has given me a unique insight that I am now proud to carry into my organizing work.

▼ When speaking directly with young AAPI voters, what do they say are the most important issues to them? What matters to you?

Some of the most important issues are recognition and awareness, both for the civic engagement process and simply representation of our leaders from the AAPI community, which there is a great lack of. Personally, seeing representation in our leaders is so empowering as it gives me hope that I too have the ability to pursue the things I am passionate about and be able to uplift underrepresented communities.

▼ Is there a lot of AAPI representation in the communities you organize in? How does that impact how you organize? What are the challenges and opportunities because of this?

Going to a PWI, I would have been inclined even six months from now, to say that there is definitely not. For the most part this holds true, but in collaborating with the Asian President’s Council, a student organization at my school, I have seen that there is a significant dynamic and diverse AAPI community that has passions and needs that must be addressed. The biggest challenge has been proving ourselves to be a prominent demographic on campus, but it has also given me the great opportunity to meet so many passionate and hardworking AAPI student leaders who strive to make real change in our community. I also am a Student Senator at my University, who ran as a RepresentAsian candidate. Part of my mission is to dedicate my work to representing the AAPI student body and this translates to the lens in which I organize with my nonprofit work.

▼ There was a massive jump in AAPI voter turnout last cycle. How did your work relate to this? Why do you think there has been such an increase in young AAPI voter turnout? 

The common theme especially in this youngest voting generation is the dynamic need for change. In the AAPI youth community, our awareness of the lack of representation in our elected officials and policies with a general disregard for BIPOC communities has really led to a resurgence in our voter turnout. This, in combination with the recent rise of Anti-Asian hate crimes across the country has made the push to make our voices heard that much more imperative through civic engagement.

Young Asian woman smiling in front of flowers

Linda Phan

She/Her | Seattle, WA
Legislative Intern and Organizer at the Washington Bus

▼ How do you organize in your community?

I have been an active community organizer ever since I began working with social justice movements in high school. Right now, I’m involved with the Emerald Youth Organizing Collective and Youth Voices for Justice, two prominent youth-led organizations focused on racial justice, abolition, and youth activism.

▼ How does your identity and heritage influence your organizing work?

Being Vietnamese has played a large role in my drive to pursue positive change for marginalized communities. As a byproduct of U.S. imperialism, war, and displacement, the trauma of systems of oppression across the globe has been felt dramatically by both myself and my family. 

▼ When speaking directly with young AAPI voters, what do they say are the most important issues to them? What matters to you?

In accordance to the model minority myth, many AAPI voters feel uncomfortable speaking on issues that are important to them because they feel indebted to the U.S. for allowing them to seek refuge in a country that ironically played a large role in their displacement. However, many AAPI voters have rejected this sense of the model minority and spoken up against instances of racial injustice, especially against our own communities. Many have called attention towards instances of hate crimes targeting AAPI that go as far as to attack our elders. However, in my opinion, I wish other AAPI recognized that in order to stop Asian hate, we need to also have the same energy towards instances of racism that harms other communities, and recognize that such instances are not isolated to individuals but by the entire system of white supremacy that harms all people of color. These issues are central in my decisions when I vote.

▼ Is there a lot of AAPI representation in the communities you organize in? How does that impact how you organize? What are the challenges and opportunities because of this?

I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of AAPI representation because of an overlying fear of betraying a country that generally provides so much more opportunity than that of our homeland, and for the little representation we do have, it’s typically light-skinned East Asian individuals. This really impacts how I organize because it exposes the intense anti-Blackness and colorism within many AAPI spaces. This is challenging because it creates a clash of interests between AAPI organizers; when fighting against racism, we fail to acknowledge the racism in our own communities.

▼ There was a massive jump in AAPI voter turnout last cycle. How did your work relate to this? Why do you think there has been such an increase in young AAPI voter turnout? 

I think it has to do with dismantling internalized guilt and fear around criticizing American politics. In addition, more youth are being involved in activism, which can also explain the AAPI voter turnout. The widespread disdain for the Trump presidency amongst several communities of color may have also served as a call to action for voters.

Headshot of young Asian man

Louis Zheng ZhongYi Anderson

He/Him | Las Vegas, NV
Community Outreach Coordinator at the Asian Community Development Council (ACDC)

▼ How do you organize in your community?

I organize my community by encouraging fellow young API individuals to turn out to discuss what issues they most care about.

▼ How does your identity and heritage influence your organizing work?

As a first-generation immigrant, my heritage and identity play a considerable role in my work. Having this experience helps me better understand what members of the API community need.

▼ When speaking directly with young AAPI voters, what do they say are the most important issues to them? What matters to you?

When speaking with young voters, I notice many of them, myself included, have concerns about the amount of representation API individuals get in media and government.

▼ Is there a lot of AAPI representation in the communities you organize in? How does that impact how you organize? What are the challenges and opportunities because of this?

Representation for the API community has been steadily growing, and there has been a noticeable increase in the number of young API individuals who turn up to public events. The challenge we are now facing to continue fostering the growth of the API community is there is a separation in the different Asian communities, especially with older members.

▼ There was a massive jump in AAPI voter turnout last cycle. How did your work relate to this? Why do you think there has been such an increase in young AAPI voter turnout? 

I would attribute the jump in API voter turnout last cycle to better voter education. Many API organizations are doing their best to get people registered and understand the importance of their vote and what it means for our community.

Young asian woman smiling and posing in front of the Washington Monument

Meha Khanna

She/Her | Boulder, CO
Organizing Fellow at New Era Colorado

▼ How do you organize in your community?

I organize in my community by connecting with other People of Color that are underrepresented. At New Era, we make it a goal to support young people in creating change and progress. We do this by putting on events to educate and encourage others to do tangible work that supports antiracism and encourages community engagement. 

▼ How does your identity and heritage influence your organizing work?

As a child of Indian immigrants, I am passionate about the right for all to gain citizenship. People of Color immigrants specifically are often disrespected in American society due to accents and other differences that come with being a non-naturalized person. This influences my organizing work because I have made it a goal to stand behind and support all immigrants in the United States. This means going to rallies, signing petitions in support of immigrants and being a strong and true ally. Seeing my parents be Othered to an even greater degree than I am simply because of their accent and language difference pushes my passion continuously for community work

▼ When speaking directly with young AAPI voters, what do they say are the most important issues to them? What matters to you?

Young AAPI voters want equal pay. Although AAPI have a larger accumulation of wealth, we are still paid less than white people when accounting for education. This is commonly due to discrimination. Young AAPI voters see the discrimination against our community not only in the recent COVID-19 based events but for centuries. I have also seen the ways the model minority myth has been harmful to the AAPI community. This pushes us into unrealistic standards and expectations as intelligence is not a race-based category. The mental health of AAPI has suffered for generations due to this myth which needs to be put to an end.

▼ Is there a lot of AAPI representation in the communities you organize in? How does that impact how you organize? What are the challenges and opportunities because of this?

There is not a lot of AAPI representation in the community I organize in, as Boulder, Colorado is a largely white community. This impacts how I organize because I often feel unsupported in my work within Boulder, Colorado itself. This creates challenges due to the feeling of being an outsider and the lack of ways my voice is supported and elevated. Regardless, New Era Colorado itself is a diverse work environment which has given me the opportunity to create community with other AAPI and BIPOC. 

▼ There was a massive jump in AAPI voter turnout last cycle. How did your work relate to this? Why do you think there has been such an increase in young AAPI voter turnout? 

This massive jump in AAPI voter turnout is extremely encouraging and exciting! My work relates to this because I work at the Colorado Democracy Challenge, getting high school students pre-registered to vote and encouraging voting age people to cast their ballot as well. I think there was such an increase in young AAPI voter turnout due to the blatant racism against our community by our own leadership that encouraged hate crimes and other racist behavior. 

Young asian woman smiling on a street with colorful houses and cars

Rittika Pandey

She/Her | Austin, TX
Development Associate at MOVE Texas

▼ How do you organize in your community?

Throughout college, I was an active member of the Asian Desi Pacific Islander Coalition (ADPAC) on campus. That was what allowed me to be part of a community of other like minded Asian-Americans interested in understanding social justice, voting rights, and the cultural issues that we face as a collective community in the US. After graduating, I saw working for MOVE as an opportunity to continue those discussions and activism beyond my immediate community and work in collaboration with other communities to ensure we were building a better Texas!

▼ How does your identity and heritage influence your organizing work?

I come from a family of organizers, educators, and artists, so activism has always been a huge part of my identity. The women in my family have been vocal advocates for social justice causes in India for generations and being the first generation of women in my family to be in America affords me an entirely different privilege in the organizing space. I am able to work in an intersectional capacity where I am not just uplifting those that are like me, but all other communities that face challenges in the US, but specifically Texas. Working closely with Black, Latinx, Indigineous, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized communities has instilled a stronger sense of solidarity with the causes I have always advocated for within my own community.

▼ When speaking directly with young AAPI voters, what do they say are the most important issues to them? What matters to you?

Many young AAPI are not politically active and that unfortunately often translates at the polls. They are usually not as engaged because they feel that the issues don’t apply or don’t matter to them, but that’s definitely not true. When I would register AAPI students to vote on campus I would focus on highlighting issues around immigration, education, and healthcare, as those are the areas that often affect the AAPI community most. All of those issues matter to me deeply, but I also view criminal justice reform and climate change as extremely pressing issues in the US that do affect the AAPI community more than they would normally think. Bringing those issues to their attention also helps get young AAPI voters engaged and active in politics.

▼ Is there a lot of AAPI representation in the communities you organize in? How does that impact how you organize? What are the challenges and opportunities because of this?

Unfortunately, I would say there really is not a lot of AAPI representation in the communities I organize in. Beyond the AAPI coalitions I am part of, the participation of AAPI individuals in the general organizing sphere is often limited. As a result, I am sometimes one of the only ones representing us in these spaces. That is a challenge at times because AAPI issues are not then brought to the forefront of discussions and our community also cannot be as engaged with the intersectional ways in which social justice can work in a state as diverse as Texas. However, being one of the few AAPI individuals in a space that has mostly individuals from other marginalized communities has given me an incredible perspective on how I can use my voice to uplift theirs. I love being part of diverse organizing efforts because I am constantly learning so much from the folks in those communities and I am always glad to be part of anything that will bring BIPOC or LGBTQ+ voices forward.

▼ There was a massive jump in AAPI voter turnout last cycle. How did your work relate to this? Why do you think there has been such an increase in young AAPI voter turnout? 

I believe the work MOVE did had a huge impact on bringing young people of all communities to the polls! I do think that the increase of participation from the AAPI community, specifically young voters, was partly due to an increase in social media activism and the spread of resources. That had a huge impact for many young people this election and I think it really helped bring young people into the political sphere in a way that made these issues approachable for them.

Zaha Khawaja

She/Her | SanAntonio, TX
Executive Intern at MOVE Texas

▼ How do you organize in your community?

I definitely still have a long way to go, in terms of learning how to be an effective organizer, but MOVE Texas has been influential in my journey to becoming one. Being a former Field Organizing Intern and current Executive Intern for MOVE, my time here has taught me how to organize within a traditional and nontraditional scope. Formerly working in the field has taught me the importance of engaging in meaningful conversations with my community. I would go from college campus to campus in San Antonio and talk to young students about local issues that matter to them. This would help foster interactions that emphasize youth action in local and national politics. These conversations would extend beyond the ballot box and really hone in on issues that impact our community on the daily, from housing to environmental justice rights. Moreover, I’m currently organizing in a more nontraditional context, one that I would say is overlooked within nonprofits. As an Executive Intern, I focus my efforts on supporting the behind-the-scenes of how a nonprofit, like MOVE, functions. This position has really taught me how fundamental each department within the organization is. I have learned that one does not have to necessarily be out in the field to do organizing work, but can also carry out administrative tasks that ensure the building of relationships and fulfill the vision of the organization.   

▼ How does your identity and heritage influence your organizing work?

My identity and heritage influence the organizing work I do immensely. Being a first generation South Asian, Pakistani-American woman has taught me the challenges my community faces daily. It has also taught me how these challenges intersect within other marginalized communities (Black, Indigenous, Brown, Latinx, LGBTQ+ etc.) in America and globally. These negative perceptions have made me aware of how much work still has to be done to liberate our communities to ensure justice for all. My identity will always play an impactful role in the organizing work that I do and helps me to better understand why we need to abolish the oppressive systems we have in place. 

▼ When speaking directly with young AAPI voters, what do they say are the most important issues to them? What matters to you?

When speaking directly with young AAPI voters, some of the most important issues to them are rooted in the feelings of displacement and loss of identity they feel. I have noticed how the AAPI community has had a difficult time in navigating their heritage and truly embracing it, because doing so causes isolation within society. Additionally, the influx of targeted racial injustices has been harmful to the AAPI community in being able to live their lives safely and comfortably. Personally, forming solidarity with other marginalized communities is something that matters to me. I would like individuals within the AAPI community to realize that the issues they face are not unique to them. These injustices cross borders and are rooted in imperialism, capitalism, colonialism etc. It is important that we highlight this, in order to empower people and sustain grassroots movements globally.    

▼ Is there a lot of AAPI representation in the communities you organize in? How does that impact how you organize? What are the challenges and opportunities because of this?

I believe AAPI representation is still limited within the communities I organize in, and for the most part, the limited representation that is available simply appeases the oppressive systems we have in place. I feel as though this lack of representation really discourages people to be civically engaged. However, I am more hopeful with younger generations challenging the narrative of representation and what it means to them. The youth are critically engaging with politicians and shifting the discourse of how representation does not mean much if the people “representing you” assimilate and play a role in passing harmful policies both locally and globally. 

▼ There was a massive jump in AAPI voter turnout last cycle. How did your work relate to this? Why do you think there has been such an increase in young AAPI voter turnout? 

As aforementioned, I feel as though younger generations are engaging more critically with politics. They recognize the crucial role elections, specifically municipal elections, play in shifting power to marginalized communities. MOVE has done an amazing job in ensuring that there has not only been an increase in voter turnout within underrepresented communities but that this advocacy goes beyond the ballot box. 

Young asian woman posing in front of a pond in traditional Bangladeshi clothing

Ziya Joy

They/Them | Durham, NC
Youth Engagement Organizer at North Carolina Asian Americans Together (NCAAT)

▼ How do you organize in your community?

I am the Youth Engagement Coordinator at North Carolina Asian Americans Together. I develop and execute much of our programming from monthly workshops that help educate, engage, and uplift high school and college aged Asian American youth to specific education and skill-building opportunities like our Youth Leadership Institute for high school students. I will also be overseeing our internship program which is a paid part-time internship through NCAAT that gives young people the chance to develop their skills and experiences in community engagement, communications, youth organizing, and voter engagement & advocacy in the context of Asian American social justice work. 

▼ How does your identity and heritage influence your organizing work?

As someone of Bangladeshi descent, I think a lot about liberation struggles. Bangladesh gained independence in 1971 through a Liberation War after surviving a brutality of partition and a genocide by the Pakistani army. The politics of postcolonial states are complex and troubling, but these resistance movements give me hope in the global fight against oppression.
Admittedly, it can be difficult navigating an identity that has next to no visibility. But I have taken that space to find my own way, lean into a process of perpetual learning, and find community and recognition in people whose struggles are different from but connected to my own.

▼ When speaking directly with young AAPI voters, what do they say are the most important issues to them? What matters to you?

A lot of young Asian Americans that we work with have told me about their desire to be in solidarity with other communities of color in working towards racial justice, their passion for environmental justice, and their broader hope for a more socially just world.

Personally, I am deeply invested in racial justice, which to me must also include internationalism, anti-imperialism, and anti-colonialism. More than anything, I wish to see a world where all of us can be safe, have our needs met, and thrive. 

▼ Is there a lot of AAPI representation in the communities you organize in? How does that impact how you organize? What are the challenges and opportunities because of this?

NCAAT works primarily within the Asian American community. I think this allows us to really organize and strategize with an Asian Americans base in mind. We’re given the space to think about our language barriers, our different cultural issues, our unique immigration stories and challenges, disparities within our communities, and how data collection impacts our community members. It’s really beautiful and exciting to have the time and resources to do that. At the same time, it can be intense to feel like one of the only groups doing this work, so the goal is to definitely see more Asian Americans take up all kinds of organizing work.

▼ There was a massive jump in AAPI voter turnout last cycle. How did your work relate to this? Why do you think there has been such an increase in young AAPI voter turnout? 

I am a more recent addition to the NCAAT team, so I was not involved in NCAAT’s brilliant GOTV efforts. However, I am still incredibly proud of the work that our staff members were able to do in helping push those numbers up. I think a lot of non-profit workers and community organizers have really committed to the long-term work of political education and base-building within our communities, and it shows! 

6 headshots of organizers behind the text "joy, resiliency, innovation"

Joy, resiliency, innovation: Our 2020 Annual Report 🎉

We always knew that 2020 was going to be a pivotal year for our country, but we had no idea everything we would face from a global pandemic to the historic uprisings against police violence. Young people persevered, innovated, and made their voices heard in one of the most important elections of our lifetime. Youth-led organizations in the Alliance Network brilliantly rose up to meet the moment and build alongside the most diverse and progressive generations our country has ever seen.

Now, you can learn about all the youth organizing power that made this happen, in our 2020 Annual Report, “Joy, Resiliency, and Innovation”

In 2020, Millennials and Gen Z accounted for 31% of voters, up from 14% in 2008 according to data from Catalist. So, all eyes were on the youth vote and young people delivered. By organizing their peers in person and online to meet the challenges of this uncertain time, the youth organizers in the Alliance network changed the narrative about the power of the youth vote. In 2020, we saw a record-breaking 11-point increase in youth voter turnout from 2016! 

How did this happen? Year-round, youth-led organizing. Alliance organizations register, educate, and mobilize young people every day because our civic engagement does not start and end at the ballot box. In 2020 this looked like:

  • 25,000,000 youth voter contacts made
  • 107,494 young people registered to vote
  • 8,396,885 calls to young voters
  • 6,502,136 texts to young voters

When organizations were not turning out young people to vote, they were passing progessive policies in their communities. From removing cops from schools to expanding voting access, young people took action to build brighter futures.

The Alliance fueled this work by investing in young leaders, providing critical tools and services, regranting millions of dollars to the field, and strengthening the capacity of the network because we are committed to building strong organizations for the long haul.

All of this is just a small part of everything the Alliance Network accomplished last year. Luckily, we have captured it all in our newly released 2020 Annual Report. 

Once you’ve checked out our amazing report please share on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Headshot of Biden smiling

100 Days in Office ✅ Did Biden Deliver?

This week marks President Biden’s 100th day in office. Join us on Twitter tonight as we live tweet President Biden’s Joint Address to Congress where he will share his vision for addressing the challenges and opportunities of this historic moment. 

In November, we polled young progressive voters in battleground states on what they wanted to see from the Biden Administration in the first 100 days. Here’s what they said:

poll listing the top issues young people want Biden to address in his first 100 days
See the full poll results here

President Biden has addressed some of these issues like continuing the moratorium on eviction and  supporting legislation to end gerrymandering. He has also made gains on other issues such as COVID-19, climate justice, gun violence prevention, and more. However, there is still much work to be done to address the most pressing issues facing young people like student debt cancelation, free college, ending the filibuster, a $15 minimum wage, passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and more. 

The youth vote launched President Biden and Vice President Harris to victory and we will keep pushing these policies until they are passed. So, join us on social tonight and make your voice heard!

Join us on Twitter as we live tweet President Biden’s Joint Address to Congress.

Get in on the fun on Instagram and take part in our Biden Bingo! Fill out your bingo card, post it to your Instagram, and tag the Alliance at @allianceforyouthaction. Participants will be entered into a drawing for one of our fabulous Alliance bandanas.

Youth organizing does not stop at the ballot box. The Alliance Network will continue putting pressure on the Biden Administration and members of Congress to pass policies that young people care about most.

on a white background blue text reads this is democracy done right

We Are Building a Democracy Done Right

The fight for voting rights is making headlines all across the country. But this isn’t a new fight for us. The local youth-led organizations in our network have led and won voting rights fights in their states for years providing a roadmap for the nation. We amplify their local victories – pre-registration to automatic voter registration –  to create a nationwide movement building a democracy that works for all of us. 

And this week, we are shining the spotlight on this work through our Democracy Done Right campaign.

Starting today, we will be sharing on social media what #DemocracyDoneRight looks like. Each day, we will focus on different pro-voter reforms local, state, and federal elected officials can implement to build a voting system that works for all.

  • April 20: We are focusing on reforms that make the voter registration process as accessible as possible.
  • April 21: We will focus on expanding voting methods so that every voter can vote the best way that works for them.
  • April 22: We will focus on efforts to restore voting rights to people who are incarcerated or were previously incarcerated.

Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Then, tell us what you think #DemocracyDoneRight looks like and tag us!

To building a voting system that works for all!

White outline of a capitol building on a darl blue gradient background

What’s New with the Alliance

We build young people’s political power by organizing year-round. After Alliance network organizations turned out young voters in record-breaking numbers last November, they got right back to work. They built programs to engage those young voters and ensure elected officials are passing policies that align with our values. This meant that organizations hit the ground running in January and have not stopped since. Here are just a few ways the Alliance Network has been organizing their communities in 2021.

Pushing Progressive Policy

  • Chicago Votes and Next Up (Oregon) are both leading legislation that would restore voting rights to people in prison. Both organizations have also teamed up to advocate for each other’s legislation and share learnings on social media. Watch their latest IG Live here →
  • Mississippi Votes is also leading efforts in the state to restore voting rights  for all formerly incarcerated citizens who have served their prison term. Learn more about the report they just released with partners here.
  • New Era Colorado is the organizing force behind legislation that would protect private loan borrowers from predatory loan servicers.
  • Next Up is leading legislation that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in school board elections in Oregon.
  • The Washington Bus is championing a bill that would allow those who have committed a felony and are out of jail to get their voting rights immediately restored.
  • Virginia Student Power Network helped powered the campaign to pass a Tuition Equity Bill, allowing undocumented students access to state-based financial aid. After the Governor signs this legislation, it will become law!

Blocking Harmful Legislation

  • Forward Montana and partners stopped a devastating anti-trans bill that would have barred medical professionals from providing gender-affirming healthcare to minors.
  • MOVE Texas is organizing to block legislation that would ban drive-through outdoor voting, discourage volunteers from driving the elderly to polling places, mandate voter roll purges that would disqualify many eligible voters, and if you can believe it, more (SOB).
  • New Hampshire Youth Movement and partners successfully blocked legislation that would have prevented people from voting in New Hampshire if they maintained a domicile address in another state, forbid students from registering to vote at their college address,  and prohibit the use of a college ID as a voter ID. Major win for the student vote in New Hampshire!

Keeping Elected Officials Accountable

  • Forward Montana has launched a new series on Instagram called Hero and Villain of the week. In this series, they identify local legislators who are voting with the values of young people in Montana and those who are not. Head over to Forward Montana’s Instagram to catch up on every week’s picks!
  • New Hampshire Youth Movement recently launched a Mean Girls-style Burn Book, NH Politics Edition, highlighting state legislators who refuse to denounce white supremacy. We think it is should be on the top of your summer reading list. Take a peek at their latest Burn Book edition on Instagram here.

Demystifying the Legislative Process

Alliance network organizations are creating newsletters, podcasts, IG Lives, and more to break down the complicated state legislative process and make contacting legislators as accessible as possible. Here are a few of our favorites:

Chicago Votes | Sh*t Talk

Forward Montana | What the Helena

Loud Light | Weekly Kansas Statehouse Recap Videos

MOVE Texas | WTF TX Lege

Next Up | Back to Basics

Providing Resources and Support

MOVE Texas took immediate action to provide support and vital information to people affected by devastating blackouts due to extreme cold weather. They mobilized over 100 volunteers to contact 70,298 Texans and connect them with emergency resources.

Learn what’s new with the Alliance staff in this blog post!

Five headshots of Alliance staff memebrs

Growth at the Alliance

Join us in welcoming the newest members to the Alliance staff and congratulating current staff on some exciting promotions!

Julian Iriarte (They/Them) | Finance Manager

In November, we welcomed Julian Iriarte as our new Finance Manager and the latest addition to our growing Finance Team. In their role, Julian oversees our daily operations, builds financial reports to keep us on track, and manages contracts and grants to ensure our network is funded and resourced. When they are not keeping the financial train on track, Julian also holds the title of proud plant parent and published spoken word poet. Welcome, Julian!

John Serpas (He/Him) | Senior Operations Director

Join us in welcoming John Serpas – the Alliance’s new Senior Operations Director. In this role, John will lead our Operations Team and ensure our internal systems are running smoothly. He’ll also provide critical training and support to strengthen the operations teams at Alliance network organizations. When not in the (virtual) office, you can find him online playing Rocket League or watching the Boston Celtics attempt to make a Finals run, but disappoint him in the process. Welcome to the team, John!

Sara Vernon (She/Her) | Data Manager

We are excited to announce the newest addition to the Alliance staff, Sara Vernon. Sara is an activist first and data nerd second making her the perfect person to fill the brand new role as Data Manager. In this role, Sara will strengthen data systems for the organizations in the Alliance network, provide training and 1:1 support for network staff, and use data visualizations to tell the powerful story of how our network is building young people’s political power . When not making beautiful spreadsheets, you might find Sara helping people get hitched as she’s an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church. Welcome to the Alliance family, Sara!

Daniela Mrabti (She/Her) | Promoted to Digital Director

Join us as we congratulate Daniela Mrabti and her promotion to Digital Director. Daniela has been with the Alliance for more than four years (!) and has been vital to the dramatic growth of the Alliance’s communications work. In her previous role, she grew the Alliance’s brand and presence on social media platforms, optimized our website, built a digital ads program, provided key communications support and training to Alliance network organizations, and has helped tell the story of the power of youth organizing online. We look forward to her continuing to grow in her new role and elevating the Alliance’s digital communications efforts.

Mariella Villacorta (She/Her) | Promoted to Development Coordinator

Join us in celebrating Mariella Villacorta for being promoted to Development Coordinator. Since Mariella joined the Alliance in 2019, she has been an integral part of our Development Team. She has managed our growing monthly donor program and led serious improvements to our internal systems. Mariella’s contributions were crucial in a year where we raised and moved the most resources in our organization’s history to support local youth organizing. We are excited to continue to see Mariella grow in this new role and further develop her fundraising prowess.