This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
After reviewing more than 50 applications, Youth United for Change announced in August that it had selected Rapheal Randall as its new executive director.
Randall, 33, has replaced longtime leader Andi Perez, who stepped down from the position after serving 16 years with the youth organizing group.
Randall said that he is excited to be working with the organization.
“[They] are already doing incredible work with the schools, making sure that the voices of the working and poor folks are heard at the table of power,” he said in an interview.
Randall, a graduate of Ohio State University, earned his master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012. Before joining YUC, he worked with North Philadelphia and Kensington communities on several social justice campaigns.
Organizing and advocacy work is something Randall said he has always aspired to do, particularly after taking a study abroad trip to Brazil, where he watched tourists ignore a young girl who was asking for money.
“It hit me, at that moment, [that] it’s not enough to have an individual dream,” he said.
“We have to be in the process of developing dreams together.”
Moving forward, Randall said he wants to keep the focus of the organization on the students.
Of their new leader, Ziegler Elementary student Nadia Leon had all good things to say.
“When we were in a meeting, he took things seriously, saying [the state of Philadelphia’s education] is not a joke [and] that we need to keep the schools open.”
Nazir Ninson, a junior at Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School, said Randall is already viewed as a family member.
“He’s like an older brother to us,” he said.
“He gives us good advice and he really helps us do things we want to strive for.”