History & Programs
AYPAL started in 1998 in response to increasing gang activity, truancy, and substance abuse issues among low-income Asian and Pacific Islander (API) youth. The project was also formed to address the marginalization of API youth voices in the burgeoning bay area youth movement.
AYPAL’s strategy to engage young people in school and neighborhood reform campaigns served as a positive alternative to high-risk activities. Simultaneously, young people in the program were developing the cultural capital and confidence to meaningfully participate in multi-racial social justice initiatives.
Since its founding, AYPAL has developed the leadership of over 500 Youth Leaders and has engaged over 5000 young people in grassroots campaigns. More importantly, the organization has become a vital home where youth from different schools, neighborhoods and ethnicities can gather together to learn, discuss and collectively change the adverse conditions impacting their lives.
Today, AYPAL is a leader in the education justice movement and the only organization in the state of California that organizes low-income immigrant and refugee API families around reforms in public education.
AYPAL recruits and trains 20 young people from AYPAL’s youth membership sites to serve as Leaders for their communities. Participants engage in an intensive 4-week summer leadership development program where Leaders sharpen their analytical, organizing and campaign skills. These skills are immediately applied at the start of the academic school year where AYPAL’s Youth Leaders begin to organize their peers, facilitate issue-based workshops, coordinate community service projects, and lead grassroots campaigns.
AYPAL’s community organizing strategy involves building positive and inclusive membership organizations where members feel valued and see themselves as agents of change. At these membership meetings, participants cultivate strong partnerships with staff and their peers through team building activities, issue-based workshops, and community socials. This participation leads to member engagement in AYPAL’s grassroots campaigns, which aim to achieve positive social change in Oakland public schools and neighborhoods.
AYPAL engages young people in arts activism projects to explore and celebrate their history, culture, and identity. Youth members identify and select art forms that derive from their ancestral heritage (ethnic dance) as well as their urban experiences (spoken word or popular theatre). The Arts Activism Projects are also integrated with AYPAL’s grassroots campaigns where art emerges as a vibrant vehicle for articulating the needs and solutions of young people and their communities. The Arts Activism Program begins in late January and culminates with public performances at AYPAL’s Annual May Arts Festival.
Collaborative and Coalition Building
AYPAL collaborates with many organizations and public agencies to broaden our impact in affecting systemic change. On education issues, AYPAL collaborates with the Oakland Unified School District’s Meaningful Student Engagement Program and the Family, Schools and Community Partnerships unit. Additionally, AYPAL is engaged in statewide Campaign for Quality Education coalition, serving on the Core Coordinating Committee and the Grassroots Subcommittee.