A local organization “run by undocumented youth for undocumented youth” helps develop leaders who can speak on behalf of their communities.
Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective cultivates a safe place where young people can meet. By engaging with them and offering programs, the organization provides the tools needed to pursue higher education and gainful employment.
The organization’s eight-week Undocumented Mentoring Academy has resources for academic and professional development. The academy covers resume writing, public speaking and understanding your rights. The program was co-created by youth and is tailored to mentors’ experiences in achieving their goals.
Each academy cohort includes 10 young people and 10 mentors who work together. This creates a supportive network of peers who can share their challenges and successes. Mentees also learn about civic engagement, advocating for themselves through public comments and emailing local officials.
“We keep people at the forefront of the organization by empowering them and also working alongside them so they can increase their agency in the world,” said Marlene Chavez, the organization’s development coordinator. “It’s something that’s really needed in the Inland Empire because our region is often overlooked.”
According to Chavez, the Inland Empire lacks resources compared to other regions and the collective is the only regional organization doing this work. Demand for his services is high, Chavez said.
Many mentoring academy graduates had never considered college, but chose to go once they understood the resources available to them. More than 50 alumni have gone on to college, professional jobs, and worked in larger nonprofit organizations. Some program graduates return to mentor or collaborate on projects.
The collective has also offered programs that give immigrant youth the tools to advocate for and meet their health needs. This included workshops on how to talk to local community health officials. The organization also provided information on COVID-19 safety, workshops on internet safety and food sovereignty. Additionally, the collective has created a safe space to talk about mental health and the cultural stigmas that make discussion difficult.
Recently, Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective received a grant from the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The organization depends on donations and grants to provide services and to develop and expand programs. Ultimately, the organization wishes to offer more programs focused on the overall well-being of individuals. However, staffing is currently at an all-time low and the organization needs more support to scale up its programs.
On November 19, the collective held their 2021 Nuestras Raices: Our Healing Path to Liberation fundraiser at the Garcia Center for the Arts in San Bernardino. More than 100 people attended the event, which featured the organization’s first photo-voice exhibit, created by alumni of the mentorship academy. The event included a silent auction for gift baskets provided by businesses. Vendors included Sign of Love Candles, MeanFrog Jewelry, Shopsayuri.ie, Minotenangos, Sunrose Coffee, La Cocina de Maria Food Truck, Jasmine Craft Shop, Teofilo Coffee and El Platanito de Juanito.
Those wishing to support the organization can always donate to the fundraiser. Contributions support the group’s work with young people, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals information sessions, California DREAM Act counseling, Know Your Rights workshops, and others. activities. Donations can be made at bit.ly/IEIYC21 or by texting “HEALINGP2L” to 44-321.
“It’s not about giving everything to the people we work with, it’s about giving them the tools, the opportunities and the support,” Chavez said. “We are there every step of the way.”
Information: 909-451-9902 or theieiyc.org
Inland Empire Community Foundation strives to strengthen the Southern California interior through philanthropy.