High school youth lead the PJALS' Young Activists
Two high school students are youth leaders for the Young Activist Leaders Program (YALP) of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS).
Ivy Pete, 16, has been a member since 2013. She is a junior at North Central High School (NCHS).
Sarah Hegde, 15, has been a member since signing up at the 2019 Women's March. She is a sophomore at Lewis and Clark High School.
They find YALP a place that nurtures youth voices and a place to interact with diverse youth who share a passion for activism.
"PJALS brings everyday people into a community to do organizing and develop programs on a myriad of topics, such as human rights, racial justice and societal peace," said Ivy. "It has provided me with a unique experience in social justice and community organizing."
Young people meet after school to create a space they want to see and support each other.
Ivy sees it as an opportunity for young people to move to the forefront in organizing and realize they do not need to reinvent efforts but build on a base of what has been.
"We are a group of intelligent young people who make lasting, impactful change through protesting, organizing, letter writing, school walkouts and other strategies," she said.
"PJALS is intergenerational, people working in the same realm with the same principles for 45 years," she said.
YALP is one way PJALS engages everyday people in action for peace, economic justice and human rights through community organizing, nonviolence training, volunteer involvement, educational events and advocacy opportunities.
"It has drawn me to learn more about how I can support the community as a young person," she said. "Youth are often thought of as not having the same capacity as adults, but we can use our skills as mentors, too."
YALP is about youth empowerment to build a better community. Members bring their experiences in sports, clubs and community boards to expand the perspectives of other members.
"We ran the program in person until March, when we went virtual," Sarah said. "It's hard to build relationships online, but we have adjusted."
YALP meets at 4 p.m., every Tuesday on Zoom. Sometimes she, Ivy and other youth organizers lead workshops. There are guest speakers on first Tursdays. Other weeks, they work on personal projects or hear updates on the Spokane City Council and the District #81 School Board.
In the early summer, they organized a vehicle procession through South Hill neighborhoods after George Floyd's killing to promote support for Black Lives Matter.
"People on the South Hill do not often engage in downtown protests," Sarah said. "It was a call for awareness and to action."
"We planned it on Thursday and did it on Saturday," she said. "It was a way to join in a protest respecting social distance so it would be safe."
During the summer, about 50 youth registered for a five-week program on grass roots organizing strategies. In the fall, about 30 youth have been meeting each Tuesday.
Sarah and Ivy sometimes offer lectures on organizing strategies.
Ivy, who grew up in Spokane, said she passes as white. Her father is Paiute and her mother is from England.
The Paiute are from Northern Nevada. While there are few Paiute in Spokane, she pointed out that even though Spokane is less diverse, it has a significant urban native population.
"I see society as moving people to learn about racial and religious diversity, with some in solidarity as allies with those who have been oppressed," she said. "While I am white passing, I try to honor my culture, recognizing and balancing the privilege I am afforded."
Ivy's parents, who own Boots Bakery, have taught her to be communicative, caring and concerned about what is happening.
"I grew up to value community and to respect all people," she said.
She works with them at Boots Bakery, where customers are diverse in race, religion, politics and class.
"Our job as human beings is to work for everybody," she said.
Sarah, who was born in Oregon, lived in Michigan and Southern California before moving to Liberty Lake and then Spokane five years ago. She values the diversity she encountered in other places she lived.
Her father moved to the U.S. from India when he was seven, and her mother, who works in communications at Providence Health, is white. In Southern California, they lived in a Hispanic community and her family looked like everyone else. She did not experience racism. In Spokane, she does not look like most people. She has experienced disrespect, like being told to go back to India—despite District #81's 2020 Equity Resolution.
Sarah was not previously involved in activism or school clubs.
Ivy, however, is not only involved with YALP. She is also a youth advisor on the Spokane School Board, on the City's Youth Advisory Council, on the Legislative Youth Advisory Council of the Lieutenant Governor's office, and involved with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction's Youth Safety Office.
In August she began a year as legislative intern for Kate Burke on the Spokane City Council, which will help her learn more about organizing and the legislative side of social change related to city issues.
Ivy brings insights and skills learned from these involvements to PJALS to build a better coalition of youth using their skills to make change, because what happens in the community, state and nation "impacts us now, not in 10 years. We are stakeholders in the process and need to be advocates."
At North Central, Ivy has also worked for change. She and Olivia Tabish, another NCHS Indigenous student, have been working through the process of retiring the NC symbol, Indians.
She is pleased that District #81 is developing a plan for evaluating names and mascots at every school.
"I am working to assure an even playing field for everyone," Ivy said.
Sarah wants to have a career as an activist and make good money. She has been exploring how to go into social justice work and is interested in studying law after she graduates from college.
Over the years, Sarah estimates PJALS has involved hundreds of youth in activism.
For information, call 838-7870, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit pjals.org/young-activists-leaders-program-yalp-fall-session.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree,November, 2020