Youth On Board

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Since 1994, Youth on Board (YOB) has been a leader in the field of youth organizing and youth-adult partnerships in the Boston area and beyond. YOB is a youth-led, adult supported program where young people of color have the space and tools to recognize and utilize the power they hold to dismantle political and economic structures that reinforce inequity. YOB believes in the power of young people to transform their communities by recognizing that when young people are fully engaged—when their voices are heard, their opinions matter, and their unique perspective is respected—they commit themselves to making their schools, their communities, and their own lives better.

YOB has worked in more than 5 countries, 27 states, and over 100 schools and isa project of YouthBuild USA.


YOB was founded by Karen Young after working as a national student organizer with COOL. In 1993 Karen met Jenny Sazama and received initial funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Jenny was brought in as YOB's associate director and later became co-director with Karen. Jenny became the director of Youth on Board when Karen moved on to do other projects in 2010. [1]. In 2010 Rachel Gunther became YOB's Associate Director.

YOB is widely known for the contributions to Project 540, a national student engagement program for 100,000 students in more than 100 high schools across the country. With funding from several sources, including W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Boston Public Schools, and others, Youth on Board has published numerous important materials. Most notable is 15 Points to Successfully Involving Youth in Decision-Making. Other publications by YOB include Your Guide to Youth Board Involvement and the Law,[2] and many others.[3]

In 2014 YOB was one of eight organizations selected by the Susan Crown Exchange to be part of their innovative research and documentation project on social emotional learning called Preparing Youth to Thrive. [4]

Local Organizing Work[edit]

Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC)

The Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC) is a group of student leader from Boston public schools who work on issues that affect young people both inside and outside of school. BSAC is made up entirely of low-income students of color who as key stakeholders are at the center of the decisions that affect them the most. Through a partnership with the Boston Public School district (BPS), YOB co-administers this citywide body of student leaders that represents most high schools in the district.

YOB and BSAC work directly with young people as they develop an understanding of the ways economic and political power is distributed in our society. They learn how to change structures that reinforce inequity. YOB and BSAC students have led organizing efforts, forged relationships with district and city-leaders, created and changed school policies, lobbied for increased student representation on the School Committee and other decision-making bodies, and advanced the voice and status of young people throughout Boston. Projects often operate on multiple levels, addressing district-level systems change, as well as systems change on the state level, while developing workable models of student-led campaign development and movement-building for replication across the country. Most critically, all of BSAC’s projects and campaigns are developed by young people themselves.

National Work[edit]

Consulting and Technical Assistance

Youth on Board provides trainings and technical assistance on various areas, including youth/adult partnership, youth leadership development, adultism, and establishing a student advisory council.

Support the Youth Voice in Decision-Making Movement

YOB supports youth voice in decision-making on a local and national level through speaking engagements, coalitions, consultations, writing articles, participating in research studies, and writing and selling publications. They are regularly called upon by foundations, think tanks, Federal and State DOE, media outlets, and researchers. We have written countless articles in publications such as YouthToday and Advancing Social Justice in the United States. [5]

Take Campaigns to Scale

Using BSAC as an "incubator" of programing, Youth on Board takes highly successful campaigns to scale. To date we have done this with:

  1. Constructive Feedback Campaign/Student-to-Teacher Evaluation
  2. Modeling Student Advisory Councils and Youth Councils based on the inside/outside BSAC model
  3. Action and Support model of organizing
  4. Social Emotional Learning


External links[edit]