The Dolores Huerta Foundation launched the Youth Leadership Program in 2008 as a direct response to the Vecinos Unidos’ prioritized need for more positive and constructive outlets for their youth. DHF YLP engages youth ages 12-18 in self-directed educational and recreational activities, community service, and policy advocacy opportunities. Youth are educated about social inequity while concurrently engaging in fun-filled activities with their peers. All projects are driven and organized by youth, keeping to the mantra of “For the youth, by the Youth”.
Special thanks to our partners who help make these programs possible: The California Endowment, Kern Arts Council, Stewardship Council, Ms. Foundation, the Women’s Foundation of California, Outdoor Youth Connections, Wild Places, Hermes Foundation, PG&E, and The California Wellness Foundation.
AFUERA (Activities for Understanding Environmental Respect & Accountability) provides young people of color opportunities to address local political and environmental barriers that challenge youth access to the outdoors.
The program facilitates youth participation in a series of outdoor recreation experiences designed to develop environmental awareness. Projects include river clean ups, camping trips, hikes, and educational environmental workshops.
Alternative Breaks Program
Every spring, college students from Santa Clara University, University of California Berkeley, San Jose State University, and Loyola Marymount University forego the traditional spring break experience to spend a week living amongst farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley as part of the Alternative Breaks Program.
Students learn about issues facing the Valley, and the realities of living, working, and studying in rural agricultural communities. In addition, Alternative Breaks participants work directly with the DHF youth group to inspire them to attain a college education.
Many students continue relationships with their host families after returning to their campuses, becoming ambassadors for our communities.
Arts & Culture
GUITAR CLASSES: The DHF Guitar Project started in October 2010 and has provided the youth of Woodlake with access to guitars and music lessons. The project was conceptualized by the neighborhood committee “San Francis Cabrini”, who wanted to create positive recreational activities for families in Woodlake. The project has created a forum for youth and adults to gather and share their ideas and dreams, concurrently building leadership and fostering community involvement.
Guitarist and volunteer instructor Gaudencio Jimenez says, “Esto es un sueno hecho realidad” (This is a dream that has become reality). Currently, 23 students ages 10-50 participate in the project. Students meet twice weekly for two hours in a garage that has been donated by a member of Committee San Francis Cabrini.
COMMUNITY MURALS: El Destino de La Raza(Destiny of the People) was painted in 2010 in Lamont, CA. The DHF Youth developed the project idea and evolving theme: Younger generations are grateful to older generations for sacrifices made on their behalf;
younger generations will reciprocate through their efforts to improve the lives of generations that follow. Local artist Jorge Guillen mentored the youth on the project. What began with one wall expanded to three beautifully painted walls, collectively referred to as “Chicano Alley”.
A second mural is currently underway in Lamont. This mural is a mosaic of individual pieces expressing “Community Pride”. Community members, young and old, will be invited to paint one brick on a brick wall facing Lamont Park.
- Haitipalooza: a benefit concert coordinated by the DHF youth group in response to the Haiti Earthquake. Over $1,000 was raised and donated to Doctors Without Borders.
- Tree Planting: partnered with Kern County Parks and Recreation to plant trees at local parks and surrounding areas.
- Community Cleanups: work alongside Vecinos Unidos to clean up and beautify their neighborhoods.
- Food Bank Distribution: partnered with Cesar Chavez Service Learning Program for weekly food distribution at St. Augustine Church.
- Annual Toy Giveaway: youth assist Santa in distributing thousands of toys to neighborhood children. They also joined in Christmas caroling and sang holiday songs for residents at a senior facility.
Teen Pregnancy Prevention
Our Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program provides reproductive health training and pregnancy prevention education to at-risk predominantly Latino youth and families of Lamont, Weedpatch, and Arvin. Twenty youth and five parent educators were trained to implement community outreach and health education efforts to their peers to challenge existing cultural and social norms that discourage dialogue about reproductive health and teen pregnancy prevention.
Our Teen Summit trains youth about healthy choices through workshops and discussion forums. By encouraging teens to envision their ideal future and educating them about the costs and responsibilities associated with raising children, DHF combats teen pregnancy.
Carla Bruno's Story
Clara Bruno grew up in Lamont, California. She joined the DHF Youth Leadership Group in 2009. She helped organize Super Sabado, a community festival organized by youth. She also helped with Waterganza, a social forum for youth held in the summer that included water games for entertainment. She participated in Sexpert training: a peer sex education and pregnancy prevention program. She participated in door-to-door voter outreach in Arvin, a canvassing effort for California Calls. She helped with all three DHF Youth Leadership Mural Projects in Lamont.
She enjoys meeting new youth and Vecinos. “I’ve seen more community involvement and unity and have learned that there is power in the people to change the community to what we want to see.”
She became involved with the We the People Constitution Team. “We consider ourselves like a family. We learned how to become better citizens and how to make our own choices and formulate our own opinions on how our government works and how to be better citizens. We got involved in politics. We know what is going on and what it means.”
The group visited Washington D.C. for one week. They went on a private tour of the capital. They learned about the process of meetings among legislators. They visited historical sites and national monuments including the White House, the Supreme Court, the Smithsonian, and the National Archives.
She chose to intern with Dolores Huerta Foundation. She says, “I love Dolores and everything she has done to…advocate for change. It’s great to see the community involved and empowered to help future generations. I’m specifically interested in working with the youth, and hearing their opinions. We are the future. It is helpful to get both the youth and adult points of view. By working together this will better our community.”
In her spare time, she loves to read, listen to music, and hang out with her friends and family members.
She is an empowered young woman with an eye toward the future, “I’ve wanted to be a teacher ever since kindergarten, but I am also thinking about becoming a nurse or OBGYN doctor. I’m still undecided.” She will be attending Bakersfield College in the fall.