Youth between the ages of 13 and 26 who live, work, learn or play in Long Beach have selected the recipients of $300,000 of Measure US funds, following the first citywide participatory budget process.
Participatory budgeting, known as PB, is a democratic process that empowers residents, in this case youth, to decide how to spend public dollars. While over the years, there have been initiatives to introduce the PB process to various districts across Long Beach, this was the first citywide process.
The awardees, seven local organizations, will utilize their portion of the funds for summer programs, which align with the goals set in place in the Long Beach Youth and Emerging Adults Strategic Plan: to focus on community care, housing, health and wellness, and transportation.
The recipients are:
- California Families in Focus (Community Care), $70,000 — “I Matter 2” is a nine-week summer program for youth ages 13 to 21 that focuses on shedding light on bullying and suicide prevention. Youth will receive group mentoring by professionals who will share their life stories and tips on coping with issues affecting them and will also participate in a variety of entrepreneur workshops and other social activities.
- Casa Youth Shelter (Housing), $60,000 — “It’s on the Casa” is a six-week program in Central Long Beach, where participating youth will be connected to essential resources like housing, basic needs and incentives and will take part in fun activities that support their success, including mindfulness sessions, counseling and life skills workshops.
- Devotion Fitness (Health and Wellness), $20,000 — The “Sunset Boxing and Wellness” program will offer 12 weeks of beginner friendly boxing, yoga and sound bath lessons for emerging adults ages 18 to 26. Devotion programs help young adults navigate life by building community, alleviating stress and improving physical health, while providing an affirming space to exercise.
- M.O.R.E. Mothers (Health and Wellness), $56,892 — M.O.R.E. Mothers’ “Summer full of Art” program aligns with positive youth development by providing 8 to 13-year-olds a supportive environment to grow, learn and develop through art. Designed for youth with all abilities, the program will teach awareness, acceptance, community-building and life skills and will culminate in a showcase exhibit to help build confidence and encourage young people to use their voice.
- Jazz Angels (Health and Wellness), $7,608 — The “Summer Jazz and Much More” program engages youth ages 11 to 17 both socially and musically. Participants will learn how to play jazz in a safe, supportive and nurturing environment. Along with practice and preparation for a community performance, the program will also center around recognizing and providing youth with access to and knowledge about mental health care.
- Our Generation Cares (Transportation), $64,000 — “Ignition to Independence: Car and Driver 101” will take a comprehensive approach to increasing access to safe and affordable transportation for youth and emerging adults by bridging the gap in driver’s education access, regardless of socioeconomic background. With classroom instruction, practical driving lessons using a real-car-driving simulator and a loaner vehicle for youth to take the DMV test, this program ensures that participants have access to the resources necessary to obtain their driver’s license.
- spcaLA (Community Care), $21,500 — “spcaLA Friends for Life Summer Camp” will involve youth ages 14 to 17 who reside in the 90804, 90805 and 90813 zip codes. Participants will engage in dog training, cat care, games and activities as well as an expanded curriculum around anger identification, conflict solving, empathetic choices, anti-bullying and kindness towards others.
The Invest in Youth Coalition, anchored by Khmer Girls in Action, and in partnership with the city of Long Beach, the Long Beach Office of Youth Development and The Nonprofit Partnership, facilitated the youth participatory budget process.
“The PB process was a great way to remove barriers and allow people to participate who may otherwise not be able to vote,” said Lupita Gutierrez, chief operating officer of Casa Youth Shelter in a statement. “I hope this type of voting can be used in other areas, like schools so students, staff and parents can feel like they are a part of the solution.”
Project proposals were initially submitted by local youth-serving nonprofits in March. Of the 60 ideas submitted, 19 were selected by youth budget delegates and were placed on the ballot.
“The fact is that youth know what they want and what they need,” said Angel Macias, CEO and founder of California Families in Focus in a statement. “If we keep creating programs, projects, events and activities without youth participation, we will only be assuming that we (adults) know what they want or need … Our youth are smarter than we give them credit for and we must learn to listen and provide what they ask for.”
The 10-day voting process took place in May, beginning with a voter fair at Long Beach City College. Voting locations were placed at high schools, teen centers and public libraries throughout the voting week, with online voting also available.
“By involving (youth) in decision-making processes like participatory budgeting, we’re not just handing them a microphone; we’re creating a whole new dimension where their ideas, concerns, and aspirations take center stage,” said Alba Danely, founder and CEO of Our Generation Cares, in a statement.
“So, get ready to witness a revolution,” said Danely. “It’s time to pass the torch to these young visionaries and watch as they ignite a fire that will shape our world for years to come. Together, we’ll build a future that not only embraces their ideas but celebrates them with open arms.”
Additional information on the awardees and their programs can be found at longbeach.gov/youthfund. Those interested in participating in any of the summer programs should reach out directly to the organizations.