19 Years Of Leadership
In 2021, the Pico Youth and Family Center celebrates 19 years of success as Santa Monica’s only social justice youth center. PYFC’s multipronged approach of direct services, advocacy and innovation has not only saved lives but also transformed the community in tangible ways. Here is a quick glimpse of 16 exemplary contributions PYFC has made to the lives of youth and families.
Made Youth Violence and Trauma from Homicide Matter in West Los Angeles
In 1998 PYFC led a Vigil for Peace attended by over 1,000 people, and successfully brought awareness to the problem of gang violence in Santa Monica, revealing that since 1982 more than 62 youth have been murdered on Santa Monica streets. Community leaders hosted the Neighborhood Forum on Youth Violence and Social Justice, providing a supportive means for families of those directly impacted to voice their concerns leading to the creation of the Youth Violence Prevention Coalition. The new coalition then successfully advocated for a $350,000 grant from the City of Santa Monica to create the Pico Youth & Family Center. Youth Violence, especially in the Pico Neighborhood became an issue that could no longer be ignored in the City of Santa Monica.
Pioneered the School to Prison Pipeline Movement in Our Community
In 2002, PYFC organized Latina/o and African-American leaders to form Mothers for Justice, a grassroots parent group in response to police engagement in school discipline matters and discriminatory practices in the application of suspensions and expulsions. PYFC then wrote a white paper on the impact of institutionalized racism in our public schools and its impact on students of color, making the first call for a Restorative Justice (RJ) approach to student discipline. RJ is now the new way of conducting student discipline in SMMUSD and suspensions were reduced by 56% in between 2010-14. PYFC also successfully advocated for the creation of SMMUSD’s Race and Discipline Task Force, as well as, implemented policy changes and protocols directing police involvement on school campuses when interrogating students. Parents are now notified before police interrogations occur and student and parents are informed of their rights in the process.
Led Efforts to Bring Black-Brown Unity into Focus in Los Angeles
From its founding in 1998, PYFC integrated Black-Brown Unity as a key component to its programming.
The organization also played a leadership role in forming the Black-Brown Unity Coalition that hosted the first Black-Brown Unity Summit in Los Angeles in response to an unprecedented escalation of Black-Brown youth violence in LA. PYFC continued direct intervention and mediation between gang-involved youth. Successful mediations saved lives and brought peace to the community. PYFC then brought Black and Brown youth together in celebrating the first ever Malcolm X Day leading to the production of PYFC’s first ever Malcolm X hip hop track.
Created and Implemented SMMUSD’s First Ethnic Studies Course
PYFC also led L.A.’s effort to support Arizona’s response to the attack on ethnic studies in 200? a succinct context may be helpful. A PYFC youth delegation went to Arizona in the wake of the governments attack on Tucson USD’s successful Mexican American Studies program. PYFC also led the creation of the first ethnic studies class at Santa Monica High. Prior to that, PYFC leaders worked on creating Santa Monica High’s first ever Chicana/o Literature Course. PYFC also successfully advocated for the creation of SMMUSD’s Ethnic Studies Committee to plan for a K-12 model of ethnic studies.
In Solidarity with Labor Moved Living Wage and Workers Rights Forward
Once elected to the SMMUSD Board of Education, PYFC Founder successfully implemented the first living wage for all SMMUSD employees. PYFC youth supported the Double Tree Hotel workers in every community action demanding a living wage and the right to unionize. PYFC celebrates Cesar Chavez Day annually and includes the local worker struggle through actions and demonstrations to ensure poverty is reduced by strengthening hotel workers and their families.
Successfully Won Environmental Justice Gains in the Pico Neighborhood
PYFC organized youth and community leaders to launch a campaign to expand green space and enhance environmental protections for low-income residents in the Pico Neighborhood. PYFC triumphed in the creation of the newest public park: Ishihara Park in Santa Monica to buffer the Expo Authority’s maintenance yard from resident’s homes. PYFC also started the movement to expand community gardens in the Pico Neighborhood. PYFC also worked with the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA) to successfully implement the Michigan Avenue Greenway Project. Enhancements to bike lanes and the greening of the Pico Neighborhood is now a reality.
Pioneered Hip Hop As a Driving Force in Youth Programming and Movement Building
In 2002 PYFC, opened the City’s first public recording studio where 6 CD compilations have been recorded, promoting peace, unity and social justice through music. PYFC hosted CD release parties and distributed 5,000 CD’s of youth-made music as well as the One Nation Hip Hop Unity Summit to educate and inspire our youth. Brought artists KRS ONE, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, XCLAN and others to inculcate the values of peace, love, unity and having fun in our youth community.
In partnership with Leila Steinberg, PYFC continues to host weekly Mic Sessions at PYFC providing artist development workshops where young artists learn to express themselves effectively and consciously.
Through Civic Engagement Effort Ensured People of Color Attained Representation on the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA)
PYFC successfully organized to elect a diverse group of residents to assume all leadership positions in the PNA Board of Directors. In partnership with the PNA, Better Neighborhoods, Same Neighbors Campaign was launched to protect the City’s cultural and income diversity and combat gentrification. Our campaign successfully saved 15 rent controlled units from demolition. Successfully advocated for the creation of the Pico Neighborhood Zoning District that will protect lower income residents from displacement.
Provided Leadership that Oversaw the Greatest Public Investment in Santa Monica’s Pico Neighborhood
PYFC youth and leadership was instrumental in advocating for an investment in youth services, including the creation of the Teen Center at Virginia Avenue Park. PYFC and PNA leadership successfully advocated for the Pico Branch Library. The Pico Neighborhood is no longer the only neighborhood in Santa Monica without a public library. Santa Monica College’s Pico Promise Program (formerly Pico Partnership) was also a community gain that PYFC leadership brought to fruition.
A Resource for Latino Immigrant Parents
Latino immigrant parents who seek support in combating racism and discrimination rely on the PYFC as the only organization that is bilingual, accessible and responsive to their needs. Parents seek the leadership training of the PYFC and are currently working to address the inequities in services to students who are English Language Learners. PYFC youth and parent leaders are advocating for diversity in hiring and a review of policies and practices to expand parent engagement in decision making roles in our public schools.
Youth-Led Crosswalk Campaign Succeeded in Expanding Student Safety on 7th & Pico Blvd.
PYFC’s Youth Council worked with City staff to develop concepts to improve student safety on Pico Blvd as part of the Safe Routes to School Planning process. As a response to j-walking tickets and accidents, youth identified the need for a crosswalk on 7th & Pico Blvd. Youth attended various planning sessions and spoke out at City Hall for enhanced student safety. Youth leaders accomplished having their needs met in getting the City to build a crosswalk on 7th and Pico Blvd.
Transformed the City’s Approach to Youth Development Culturally Relevant Events and Programming
PYFC’s leadership co-founded the Youth Resource Team (YRT) and introduced the principles of “collective impact” to coordinate multi-agency support and services for underserved and high risk youth. In response to continued incidents of youth violence and suicide, PYFC youth and leadership wrote a white paper titled: A Regional Response to Addressing Youth and Gang Violence. In January of 2000 a demonstration to SM City Hall delivered this white paper to City officials and the SM City Council directed staff to respond to our recommendations for change. Santa Monica’s Cradle-to-Career Initiative was born and PYFC’s Executive Director served as the first Co-Chair. In addition, PYFC pioneered culturally relevant programming such as the first Day of the Dead event, Cesar Chavez and Malcolm X Day and the 1st International Womyns Day event to name a few. PYFC provides a best practice model for low-income communities of color that are in need of culturally relevant youth violence prevention and youth development.
Expanding Training and Career Opportunities for Youth in Silicon Beach’s High Tech Sector
In 2015, PYFC launched the Digital Dream Pathways initiative to expand training, internships and career awareness in Silicon Beach’s high tech job sector. Santa Monica-based Tiny Rebellion partnered with PYFC to host an all-day career day involving students from Samohi, Olympic High and PYFC. Five young adults have enrolled in PYFC’s online training program through Tree House at PYFC with plans to expand. Building from the success of the recording studio and film program, PYFC has major plans to strengthen partnerships with local businesses and offer unique and engaging programming to connect diverse youth to the high tech sector in Santa Monica.
Provided Free Performance Space for Aspiring Artists and Young Entrepreneurs
Expanded Regional Impact on Promoting Peace, Unity & Social Justice. Brought back Venice Cinco de Mayo Parade, 1st Unity Car Show bringing Westside together