the CENTER Youth Collective

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For four years...

...the I Love This Place Blog and the CENTER have had a multitude of dedicated young people working to create spaces and opportunities for other youth, participating in programs put on by PLACE and using the space of the CENTER in a variety of ways. This flexible usage of resources of both entities in integral in empowering young people to create visions of their own. However, it has largely also led to a lack of a set demographic or pool of young people to constantly be engaged. That is changing.

This year's cohort of the CENTER Youth Collective have already begun planning, organizing and executing their visions for a more inclusive community. We are happy to introduce the wonderful youth leaders and activists that inform the direction of the CENTER, work independently on social justice initiatives and actively support the work of all youth around the city of Portland. We are looking to incorporate more young people and bring in more voices to augment our work.

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Introducing the newest Youth Leaders of Portland:

Tasneem:

I’m Tasneem Sarkez, 16, and I’m a junior at Lincoln High School. I’m interested in working with collaborative groups working on issues of social justice because of the lack of opportunities given to people of color. I come from an Arab immigrant background. Inherently that impacted my involvement with Arab American rights and Middle Eastern politics as well as other global issues. I go to a predominately white school, so I like to work in a space where I can address issues of race and integrate that work with my high school. Aside from that, I’m into art, tennis, basketball, and listening to music. A lot of my advocacy for social justice is shown subtle provocativeness through art. Peace

Bella:

My name is Bella Myers, I am 17 years old, and a senior at Catlin Gabel. My passion for social justice and inclusion stems from my experiences growing up. As a person of color at a predominately white school, I am either ignored or looked upon with a microscope. I knew that I had to start speaking up about the injustices and microaggressions that myself and my other friends of color were experiencing. I want to reach out beyond the bubble and into the communities that I call home. After years of involvement with the CENTER, I am now the CENTER Editor. The CENTER has allowed me to have leadership opportunities within my neighborhood and I plan to create programs for the underprivileged youth. My favorite food is tacos, my favorite color is purple, and if I had a spirit animal it would be a tiger.

Tamia:

I’m Tamia Miller, 16, and I go to Jefferson High School as a junior this year. I identify as an intersectional feminist and I support the Black Lives Matter movement. I will continuously advocate for people of color in the classroom, people with mental illnesses, and victims of bullying, harassment, and sexual assault. Organizations I am a part of: Mental Health Youth Advocates, Beyond Differences, and Jefferson’s Women’s Empowerment and BSU. This will be my second year in the Youth Collective. The bond we have as a collective, and the equity work we do has definitely shaped me into the person I am. Student activism is important to me because I am not happy with how our systematic society works today. And when I don’t like something, I change it. Power to the youth.

Emma:

Hello my name is Emma Cooper. I'm 17 and a senior at Grant High School. I am a co-founder of MHYA. I also co-lead a group called The CENTER, that is focused on racial equity and activism. I am a part of Planned Parenthood Teen Council, and I am a peer educator at a local domestic violence shelter. I am going to PSU next year and am planning on studying social work and ethnic studies. I advocate for equity for people of all abilities and equity within my school and community.

Karina:

My name is Karina Alcantara, I am 17 years old and I’m a Senior at Benson Polytechnic High School. I was a member of the Latino Student Action Committee where I found my passion for bringing awareness about mental health in the Latinx community and advocating for sexual education in Oregon. This year I am a leader for Mental Health Youth Advocates something I am really excited to be a part of and It's also my first year doing the Youth Collective, I love doing social justice work. I hope to attend a four-year college after I graduate from high school and major in Political-Science and minor in Criminal Justice. Outside of school I love going to concerts with friends and listening to music.

Kayla:

My name is Kayla Isaac, and I’m a freshman at Lincoln High School. At Lincoln, I am a part of Pacific Islander Student Union and Sisters of Color. I consider myself an advocate for women’s rights and racial justice. As a double minority, I have seen and experienced both racism and gender disparity. Because of this inequity, it is extremely important to me that people become more aware of the institutional structures that create disadvantages for marginalized groups. I believe that everyone should have the resources to be successful without the limitations of race, gender, socioeconomic class or citizenship status. By joining the CENTER, I hope that I can contribute to positive change in our community. During my free time, I like to ski, read, eat good food and spend time with family and friends.

Helen:

My name is Helen Lin, I’m 15, and currently a sophomore at Catlin Gabel. I’m excited to be part of the youth collective this year to advocate for social justice issues within and beyond our communities in Portland. I have always been passionate about engaging with different communities through service-oriented projects and continue to be interested in broadening my knowledge of how I can help marginalized individuals receive equal opportunities through inclusion work. As a child of two immigrants from Taiwan, I am thankful to have a multicultural perspective of the world which has allowed me to be aware of both other’s actions and my own.

Rama:

My name is Ramatoulaye Thioub. I am 16 years old and a Junior at Grant High School. At Grant, I am a part of Black Student Union, Equity, Key Club, and National Honors Society. Outside of school, I am apart of Minds Matter, the Center, and I play competitive soccer. I decided to join the Center because I was intrigued by the opportunity to put my voice in a place where it would be heard. Being around driven individuals that hold the constant desire to better our society was an opportunity I couldn’t pass. As I begin to think about college, I want to attend the University of Chicago or Brown University and double major in Political Science or Human Rights and dance. For Graduate, I would like to attend Stanford Law School. I want to become a family or criminal lawyer and help create a better system for all the minorities that are misrepresented. Issues like police brutality, the increase of incarceration, and the blindness our leaders possess that cause these problems are what drives me the most.

Taji:

My name is Taji Chesimet. I am a junior at De La Salle North Catholic HS and I am 16. I have been called to civic engagement and leadership since I was in middle school. From building my student council from the ground up to developing and facilitating workshops to leading community events. I believe in the uplifting and empowerment of all minority groups and do so in intersectional frameworks that guide my work. I am the Event Coordinator for the CENTER and have enjoyed partnering with The CENTER for the last three years of my high school career.  I currently sit on the Multnomah Youth Commission and run a non-profit along with freelance work including: Momentum Alliance, What Now Oregon, ACLU, PrideNW, World Learning/WorldORegon, and NAACP Portland. When I am not doing my school or this work I enjoy snowboarding, watching Spanish TV shows, and playing with my 3 yr old dog.

Thomas:

I am Thomas Cassidy and I am a Junior at De La Salle North Catholic High School. I am 16 years old and I work at the CENTER. I am also a part of the Bus Project, What Now 3.0  and more recently The CENTER Youth Collective. I am in this line of work because I feel the need to leave my mark on my community in the best way possible. I want to be an ally to those who need me as well as a comrade when need be. I want to change the hearts and minds of those who spread hate and violence through any medium, whether it is measures such as 105 and 106 or social media propaganda and cyber-bullying. On a lighter note, I love to collect records and books. My favorite record I currently own is Pearl by Janis Joplin and my favorite book I own is Tales of Sherlock Holmes By A. Conan Doyle. I plan on going to college after high school; at the top of my list is the American University of Rome.

Jazkia:

My name is Jazkia Phillips, and I’m a senior at Catlin Gabel School. At the CENTER, I work as the Youth Advocate and have been involved in various programs there since my freshman year. I am a part of the Urban League of Portland’s Youth Program, have written for Affinity Magazine, am a liaison for Agora Theory, and the president of my school’s Black Student Union as well as our Multiracial affinity group. Other than inclusion work, I am deeply passionate about reading and writing and creating in general. The amount of books I bought these past couple of months is honestly ridiculous, but reading makes me feel full, in a good way. I find solace in my books and the stories they tell. Right now, I’m reading Jenn Bennett’s The Anatomical Shape of A Heart and after that, I plan on reading Akata Witch for the Young Adult book club at Powell’s Bookstore that I attend once a month. One of the reasons why I got back into reading this year is because my life was missing something, a thing that made me happy and could transport me somewhere else. I go to Catlin Gabel, a predominantly white school on the west side of Portland, and more often than not for various reasons, it’s hard for me to step onto campus and feel safe and welcomed. There, I’m the “diversity kid” who talks too much about race. That title is okay with me though, because I’d rather be that person than someone who just doesn’t care. I’m actually kind of grateful for Catlin, in a way, because without the hardships I’ve faced and the difficult lessons I’ve learned, I’m not sure if or when I would have realized my passion for social justice and inclusion work. In the future, I want to be the teacher I never had, so teenage girls of color can have the learning experience that they deserve, where they not only feel represented in the curriculum but by their teacher as well. So yeah, that’s me I guess. I also love Hawaiian food… like a lot.

Jada:

Im Jada Commodore. I'm a senior at St. Marys Academy, and student body president. I have worked for many different nonprofits around Portland surrounding educational justice, LGBTQ+ justice, and racial justice. I also serve on the board of directors for Momentum Alliance and a youth coach for their Youth Education Advocates cohort.This is my second year on the center youth collective and I'm super excited for our projects this year. I enjoy spending time with friends and family and educating them on my passions for social justice. I enjoy facilitating courageous conversations and encouraging youth to speak out against injustices. I love watching The Office and consider myself a blacktivist and Tupac enthusiast.

Amira:

My name is Amira Tripp Folsom (she/her), I’m 16 and a junior at La Salle Prep. As a black and Korean young woman born and raised in NE Portland, I try to balance and celebrate each aspect of my identity and help others celebrate theirs. My mother and aunt have been a large influence on my life as they have dedicated their lives to serving others, I hope to do the same through advocacy. I am passionate about intersectional feminism, reproductive rights, equal access to education, gun reform, racial justice, and equity, and putting an end to modern day slavery. I have dedicated a lot of my time to social justice work in my school and my community. At my school, I started the Youth Ending Slavery club as a sophomore and the Black Student Union as a junior. Since I was 14, I have worked with the Center for Women’s Leadership at PSU as an intern and participate in their GOALS teen council to plan an annual leadership summit for high school girls. Because my regular job is working in a coffee shop, I like to volunteer as a barista at my school’s fair-trade coffee shop, in which 100% of the profit goes student immersion trips. In my free time, I like to do makeup, listen to music, spend time with my friends, travel, watch movies, and eat sushi.

Gabby:

My name is Gabrielle Cosey and I am a 17 year old senior at Lincoln High School. Living all across the United States has provided me a unique lens into many people’s lives. I have been able to take these broad experiences and stories and translated them into my motivations for equity-centric work. I am the co-founder of Oregon Youth for Gun Reform (OYFGR), a branch of the Bus Project (an organization I serve on the Board of Directors for). OYFGR was created as myself, as a multiracial Black young women, noticed the negligence and indifference towards the intersection of gun violence and race, specifically here in Oregon. I strive to be as equitable and inclusive as possible in all my work, including any events or organizations I am a part of.

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The 2017-18 CENTER Youth Collective:

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Aaliyah: 

Senior at De La Salle North. I stand for intersectional feminism (womanism) as well as black lives. My ethos as a black woman has compelled me to not only advocate for equity for myself but other who too share my identities. Equity and inclusion work is important to me because without this type of work being done no progress will be made: people will continue to be oppressed and conversation that are often tough yet beneficial for both parties will not happen

Ahlam: 

My name is Ahlam Osman, I’m 16 years old and currently a sophomore at Madison High School. I like to consider myself a youth activist, and an active member of my community(s). I am a part of a few youth organizations all over Portland/Multnomah County and invest a significant amount of time trying to solve the underlying issues that exist in marginalized communities. I believe that it is important for youth to advocate for their needs/Rights, in addition, I encourage other young people to recognize how much power their voice has. My interests include politics, sociology, and art. During my free time I like to write, paint, or play with my cats!

Carmen: 

My name is Carmen Vintro and I am a junior at Lincoln high school. I am the founder and leader of a group at my school called MAD (Make A Difference) Youth that aims to educate students on what’s happening in politics, how it affects them, and how they can make a difference. I strive to incite political action in others and am a passionate feminist and (aspiring) climate change activist!

Emma: 

hello my name is emma cooper. i’m 16 and a junior at grant high school. i spend my time doing social justice and community work. i work with the center, beyond differences (a group against social isolation), and raphael house ( a domestic violence center). most of the time i work i go into schools and run workshops about consent or what social isolation is. i advocate for equity and for mental health in my school and community, i aim to use the privilege i have for the better. at school i go to qsa, bsu and run a club called girl up to support girls in developing countries. i am also beginning a project to implement more mental health education into high schools. in the future i’d like to do social work within jails and prisons. in my free time, i create new projects to express advocacy, play piano, and dance.

Ibrahim: 

I'm Ibrahim, a senior at Oregon Islamic Academy. I love math and reading about history and spend my time watching stand up comedy, thrifting, and working on community projects relating to social justice, specifically educational equality. I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, and my parents are immigrants from Sudan, so I basically live in a multicultural household, an African, Muslim, American, English-speaking, Arabic-speaking household.

Jada: 

My name is Jada Commodore! I’m 17 and I’m a junior at St. Mary’s Academy! I enjoy taking photos and spending time with my lovely friends. I am a co-leader of the black student union at my school and enjoy teaching and learning about race and ethnic education. My favorite things to watch are The Office and Coming to America (they never get old!!). I also do continued work with Momentum Alliance and The CENTER. I love making people laugh and making new friends. You could call me a “Blacktivist” and a Tupac enthusiast!

Riya: 

My name is Riya Sivakumar, I’m 16 years old, and a current junior at the Catlin Gabel School. While I’ve lived in Portland for the lads few years I spent a majority of my childhood in New Delhi, India. As the child of two immigrants, that experience allowed me to connect with my heritage and broaden my perspective on the world. I find that I am better able to empathize and that I have a more open-minded approach to my activism. I am a strong advocate for diversity and representation within my community, and I care deeply about the voices of otherwise marginalized communities. In my free time I enjoy swimming, traveling, eating, making music, and spending time with my family.

Semerdin: 

Oregon. I love to read and write, and currently have a interest in political philosophy. I also have a strong passion for service-oriented projects and addressing social issues in our community. I believe it's significantly important for individuals, specifically youth to be thoroughly engaged in their community through civically minded activities. As President of my school's Black Student Union and Brothers of Color, I have the opportunity to draw local knowledge from a diverse group of youth and propose practical solutions to issues in marginalized communities. During my free time I enjoy playing basketball, taekwondo, and hanging out with friends.

Taji: 

My name is Taji Chesimet - 16, De La Salle sophomore - I am a vivacious, motivated and self-driven young man, who uses the understanding of self - inside and outside - in larger social identities, to navigate my work. Interacting with people of all backgrounds, to address the most complex and uncomfortable issues with a candid, direct approach. I run a non-profit and am also a youth commissioner where I corroborate the ideology of togetherness and holistic support for all youth in a valuable and organic approach. In my free time I love to snowboard, read, drink chai, and shop.

Tamia: 

I am Tamia Miller, and I attend Jefferson High School as a sophomore this year. I try to spend a lot of time in different parts of Portland, exposing myself to different races and cultures. It has taught me to appreciate people that are different than me, and I think that it is really important because our society can be very restricting. I’ve always been very passionate about racial equality, mental health in teens, gender equity, and bullying. I would like to call myself an advocate for those things. I am always open to hearing new opinions, and new ideas because I believe that it takes more than one person to make a change. My personal interests include binge watching TV, writing short stories and poetry, and spending quality time with good friends and good food.

Teddy:

My name is Teddy, and I’m a freshman attending Portland State University. I was raised in Portland, but born in Thailand onto a refugee camp. I am committed to working towards a more just, equitable, and accepting society through volunteer work, community participation, leadership roles, and cultural diversity. I have been involved with organisations such as the Portland Student Action Network, the Oregon Queer Youth Summit, Momentum Alliance, and others. The common theme is to bring youth voices onto the table and into discussions. Youth voices are not as acknowledged but are equally as important to listen to, include, and uplift. I enjoy long walks on the beach, and punching nazis. Leo Sun, Taurus Rising, and Aries Moon.

Tyler: 

my name is Tyler White, I am 17 and a senior at De La Salle. born and raised in portland, oregon, I have spent my entire life in the northeast portland neighborhood, historically the most diverse neighborhood in the city. with one of the largest black families in the state, my connection to my family is a crucial and integral aspect of who I am. awareness and understanding of the long, nuanced history of the systemic, political, economic and social marginalization of blacks in this country, created an overwhelming sense of empathy. the ability to empathize has allowed my work to extend far beyond the context of my own racial identity. working across sexuality, gender expression, creed, political affiliation, age, ability, geographic location and socioeconomic status, has provided a profound depth in scope and lens of all of my involvement. intersectionality and equity are the focal point of every action, event and activity I engage in. in my free time, I spend time writing, running, taking photographs, trying new foods and enjoying time with friends.