The mission of the Rockaway Youth Task Force is to empower youth in our local communities through civic engagement and volunteer opportunities. We seek to spark social change in the Rockaways through youth leadership, and provide opportunities for teenagers and young adults to become productive citizens of the Rockaways.
RYTF believes that effective youth engagement is essential to long-term, sustainable change in the under-served communities of the Rockaways. Helping youth realize the impact of civic processes on their future fosters a personal stake in civic engagement and community development, while paving the way for young people to carry the torch by becoming leaders in the community. Empowering youth to lead real change in their communities allows them to take control of their personal futures and the future of their community.
Our guiding principles are the result of a collective effort between RYTF youth participants and staff to voice our core values and encompass what we feel are best practices to promote positive youth development and youth-led social change. These guiding principles reflect our youth-centered and youth-inspired approach while grounding our work within a common set of values.
To build our capacity as an organization, we rely on our members, organizers, leadership team, and supporters. To build our power and create youth-empowered solutions, we take part in coalitions, alliances, and networks. We provide numerous volunteer opportunities, political education, and civic engagement opportunities to foster a sense of community among our members and program participants. We seek to take on a “for-youth, by-youth” model because we understand the importance of having an organization that young people control and lead.
Our organizational structure is designed to support our campaign work while including internal structures and pathways for our membership to grow and advance in their roles while at RYTF. Members make the base of the organization and are the most populous tier. Members who complete CORE (Community Organizing & Resistance Education), RYTF’s 8-week entry course, are invited to join the organization as Organizers. Leaders are Organizers who have been elected to sit on RYTF’s Leadership Team. The Leadership Team is RYTF’s governing body and is made up of RYTF Youth Leaders and Staff. RYTF’s Staff consists of all management roles, including the Executive Director and supporting staff.
Through street outreach, peer recruitment, and social media, Rockaway residents ages 14-24 are recruited to become Members of the Rockaway Youth Task Force, where they will participate in volunteer projects, attend community meetings, and participate in direct actions. Dedicated Members are invited to participate in CORE (Community Organizing & Resistance Education), where they learn about the history of Rockaway, the basics of community organizing and campaign development, and about the movement today. Upon completion of CORE, Members are invited to join RAP (Rockaway Advocacy Program) as Organizers. Organizers are then able to develop campaigns and actions based on local youth-related issues.
We utilize a tiered membership structure and prioritize building a large base of Members and a robust cohort of trained Organizers to support the mission and aspirations of the organization. Organizers who show extra initiative and leadership potential are given the opportunity to become Leaders, where they gain access to additional citywide trainings and personalized professional development, assist in facilitating our programming and maintaining morale and momentum amongst our youth membership, and take on increased decision-making power over the organization. Check out this graphic to get a better sense of what differentiates the roles and responsibilities of RYTF’s Members, Organizers, and Leaders.
We conduct advocacy campaigns, educational workshops, collection drives, and community improvement projects around local issues that impact young people living, working, and going to school in Rockaway. Our Members and Organizers use issue identification to focus the scope of their campaigns. Organizers then work together to research and analyze root causes of the issues at hand to develop the appropriate action to take. This also involves identifying key stakeholders and decision-makers crucial to the end goal of their campaign. Organizers then carry out and evaluate the results of their campaigns.
We believe strongly in using community organizing as a tool to develop our youth. Teaching young people how to advocate for themselves and their community and empowering them to take the reins on our campaigns lets them see the impact of their actions in a personal way. Often, young people in underserved communities are portrayed as powerless and helpless. They are subjected to the actions of others and have little say in the trajectory of their lives. We want to flip the script and empower the youth in our community to lead the charge in advocating on behalf of themselves and others. Community organizing equips people of all ages with tools and experiences that will support them in their personal lives, the workplace, and beyond.