Fresno Youth Stepping into Their Power

Fresno teens and young adults have a chance to grow both personally and professionally as leaders and to serve as ambassadors for their community. The Transform Fresno Youth Leadership Development Program is looking to groom tomorrow’s leaders right now.

The purpose of the program is to nurture creative ideas and to guide the City of Fresno in funding neighborhood-level plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, it aims to provide economic, environmental, and health benefits to disadvantaged communities in downtown, Chinatown, and southwest Fresno.

The program is managed in partnership with the Youth Leadership Institute (YLI), a statewide organization which seeks to train in the areas of environmental justice, public speaking, and more, and Fresno EOC Street Saints.

Program Coordinator Kato Prado says YLI brings young people to the forefront of conversations. “The point is to really empower them through resources and mentorship, guidance and trainings; to really step into their power and make change when they want to see it in their communities.”

During the summer of 2021, a cohort of 12 young people took part in the four-week Summer Workshop Series, a condensed version of the year-long training. Workshops included an Environmental Justice 101 workshop at a local community garden. The cohort learned about the varieties of plants cultivated in the garden that make it to our plates and how these plants and food outlets connect to environmental justice.

Brianne, a Summer Workshop Series Participant, says the program opened her eyes to new possibilities. “You know growing up, we see things that we want to change, but we feel that we don’t have the resources or we don’t have that kind of power. But with programs like these, it shows you that you really can come, even though you’re younger, there’s a spot and there’s opportunity for you, too.”

Program applications are accepted on a rolling basis. To qualify, you must live or go to school in the Transform Fresno project area which includes parts of the 93706 and 93721 zip codes. To learn more, visit the YLI Youth Leadership Development Program page.