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YUC celebrates 20 years of student activism

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Friends, supporters, and community members will gather tonight at the Chemical Heritage Foundation to join Youth United for Change (YUC) in celebrating two decades of youth organizing.

The theme for the 20th Annual Awards Ceremony & Reception, which begins at 5:30, is “From the Grass Roots to the Hill: Organizing for Educational Equity.”

Russlynn H. Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education will be the keynote speaker.

YUC will pay tribute to Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. with the YUC Partner in Change Award. Casey, who once taught 5th grade in North Philadelphia, has fought for federal funding for high needs schools and was instrumental in helping to secure $6.3 million in federal grants to improve school climate at seven District high schools, including West Philadelphia, Overbrook, Germantown, Bartram, University City, Lincoln, and FitzSimons.

YUC has close to 3,000 members and chapters at the Kensington high schools, Olney, Edison, and Strawberry Mansion. Over the years members have held a prominent presence in the School District of Philadelphia, helping to identify problem areas and change policies and procedures around education.

Just last year, YUC created a chapter targeted specifically to pushed-out youth. This year, students created a survey to examine the impact of the District’s zero tolerance policy, and are also working on campaigns around career and technical education, small schools, and the dropout crisis.

In September, YUC celebrated the opening of the new Kensington High School for Creative and Performing Arts, marking the success of a hard-fought multiyear campaign to create small schools.

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