Founded in 2007, Youth Guidance Network at Work It was created by two seasoned educators who wanted to make sure the voice of young people was heard and gave them the strength to create their own programs.
The organization believes that young people have the power to shape their schools and communities. Its programs build youth power through mentorship, education, and wellness.
Cash routing is at the fore in everything the network does. It is a way of making programs impactful, making sure they connect with communities of color and creating goals with young people by addressing issues of race, class, gender and sexuality. Another component is building a staff and volunteer base that reflects the community.
“Our approach to educating students is to create programming that they express and lead so they can thrive,” said Andres Herrera, Director of Network Communications.
The group collaborates with young people who aspire to be leaders, and offers a stipend of $1,000 to those selected through the application and interview process. Young artists, activists, and those interested in health and wellness are selected to build programs, organize other youth, and provide resources.
Programs that young people help create include the Young Artists Group, which makes up the Young Artists. Students learn the ropes of production, compose their own music, and produce their own videos in a professional studio. By working with Nonstop Management from Los Angeles, students learn what it means to be a professional in the music industry.
“The Inland Empire is a breeding ground for some of the most creative people in the United States and we want it to be a place of cultural impact,” Herrera said. “The students are here and they just need someone to give them a chance.”
The organization also offers a wellness program that includes a community garden, self-care lab, and mental health programs from a professional therapist.
The organization reaches out to the region to increase educational and mentoring opportunities for young people. Recently, the Black Girls (EM) Power Initiative conducted a nationwide search for five young black women who were movement builders and activists doing critical work in their communities. Recipients received a $5,000 stipend, social entrepreneurship mentoring, and a weekend retreat. Participants shared their experiences, suggestions, and ideas for Young Black Women’s Programs.
The network recently received a grant from the IE Black Equity Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The organization relies on grants and donations, and it can be difficult to find funding for programs focused on building strength, Herrera said.
The network’s programs teach young people to leverage their skills and share their experiences and passions with their communities. Herrera said that while this doesn’t involve getting as many students into a room as most grant-funded programs do, empowering fewer people has a ripple effect. He said that all participants are empowered to take what they have learned and teach it to others, and this is how change is brought about in society.
“We work with a lot of high school guys,” Herrera said. “I see them from the first year when they’re still shy when they’re old and they get strong.”
Information: 909-908-1153 or https://www.yman.org/
The Inland Empire Community Foundation works to promote Inland Southern California through charitable work.