This week we highlight Paulina Rojas, Program Coordinator at the Youth Leadership Institute, an organization dedicated to empowering young people in the form of research and organizing. With a passion for storytelling and the next generation of leaders, Paulina is committed to making a change by empowering the youth and ensuring that their voice is seen and heard in the Eastern Coachella Valley!
Who is Paulina Rojas, what do you do, and why?
My name is Paulina Rojas and I am a Program Coordinator for the Youth Leadership Institute at the Eastern Coachella Valley location. The Youth Leadership Institute is a statewide organization in California. We have offices that range from the Bay Area all the way down to Southern California. We work with youth in many different capacities but we focus heavily on research and organizing that is youth led. Our organization works mostly in underserved communities with a high population of youth of color. We have the pleasure of interacting with families that come from humble beginnings, as most of the youth in the program come from families where the parents and/or grandparents are farm workers.
Tell us more about your role at the Youth Leadership Institute. What’s your role like and what are your responsibilities?
Those are the programs that I work closely with and I’m very hand on. I’m in the high schools about two days a week as well. I produce content for our social media platforms and assist with creating the curriculum for the youth. At the Youth Leadership Institute, we have a very holistic approach. I primarily focus on the media side of things but we do a lot meaningful and fulfilling work in the community.
When did you develop a love for storytelling and a passion for empowering the youth? Growing up, did anyone inspire you?
As a kid, I’ve always been curious. I like knowing how everything works and why. I come from a family or readers, so I think that was my gateway into journalism. I am also a poet and I have been writing poetry for a very long time. It’s important to preserve our stories and I believe my inspiration comes from being the daughter of immigrants and knowing that there is so much more to my story. My family has made a lot of sacrifices to get me to where I am at today and that has truly empowered me. Conserving my personal story, family’s history, and empowering others to do the same has also contributed to my love of storytelling. In an academic sense, I’m really just inspired by women of color and writers who are not afraid to be who they are. Women like Yesika Salgado and Amanda Alcantara inspire me.
There are so many opportunities for youth to get inspired and motivated by their community. What’s your favorite tip for getting started and involved in the community?
One thing that I tell young people is that it is okay to not know what you do not know. Wherever you are in life, just start in that moment. Use whatever talent you have to create change. Have a little bit of courage as well.
Understanding and knowing that there is wealth in my community has empowered me. Knowing that there is wealth of experience, wealth of knowledge, and wealth of community is truly amazing. There is power in each and every one of us. You just have to step in whatever makes sense to you. We can all be game changers in our own way and it all adds up.
How can people get involved and support the Youth Leadership Institute?
There are many opportunities to support the Youth Leadership Institute. The number one way people can support the Youth Leadership Institute is through financial donations at www.yli.org/donate/. When you make a donation, you can specify the program of interest and that charitable donation will help support our youth. If there are any media professionals, especially in California who are interested in partnering, covering our stories, or conducting trainings, that would be another great way to get involved as well. The simplest way to support the Youth Leadership Institute is to follow us on social media along with giving us a like to stay engaged with the work that we are doing. To learn more about our programs, please visit our website at www.yli.org/region/eastern-coachella-valley/.
With all of our interviews we like to sign off by saying thank you! We know you’re trending which is why we chose you to be one of our featured guests. In honor of the tradition we would like you to finish the sentence..…I’m trending because…
I’m trending because I embrace who I am. I am my most authentic self and I lean into that.
July 1, 2019