ERI Social Movements and Leadership Reports > USC Equity Research Institute (ERI) > USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

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Summer 2021
Veronica Terriquez, Angel Mendiola Ross, Olivia Rodriguez, Jazmine Miles and Rocio Aguayo

Youth organizations have long played a central role in promoting youth engagement in democratic processes. They can provide them with knowledge, skills and developmental supports so that they can collectively exercise their voice and political power. Yet, the civic infrastructure to support youth engagement in policy change and voter engagement efforts remains patchy across the state of California.

This report takes stock of emerging youth power in the Inland Empire by describing and contextualizing key youth-serving organizations. It begins with a historical overview of the two counties that make up the region (Riverside and San Bernardino), focusing on migration, the politics of exclusion, and the political economy. After describing the youth demographics of the Inland Empire, we share an overview of youth programming. Although the youth organizing infrastructure remains limited given the size of the region’s population, we note emerging models of youth leadership and empowerment. Drawing on in-depth surveys and interviews, we discuss young people’s involvement in political campaigns, showing how these efforts develop their capacity for ongoing civic action. Our report highlights an impressive increase in voter turnout and notes that young people have played an important role in ensuring their peers vote in 2020. At the same time, our research demonstrates the need to continue to reach out to emerging voters and youth. The conclusion underscores the importance of continued investments in youth programs that support young people’s capacities to become informed participants in community change efforts. This report includes an appendix listing some recent victories of youth-led grassroots organizing campaigns.

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