Learnings and best practices for working with youth during a global pandemic

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Learnings and best practices for working with youth during a global pandemic

Karen Crespo Triveno

  • Youth Community Organizer in Salinas Valley (Monterey County, CA) for a non-profit organization
  • community organizer
  • youth programs facilitator
  • international activist
  • social media storyteller
  • Served a youth mentored numerous youth participants
    • trained them to develop as activists and organizers for their communities
    • educated youth about environmental justice, social justice, cumulative health impacts, food sovereignty, environmental racism, and environmental health issues such as pesticide drift
  • developed a deep connection with youth from Salinas Valley, I’ve been working with the same group of youth since January 2020

Still lots of pathways to connect

Age is something we need to talk about

Depends on what kind of youth -- different socio-economic background

Facilitation style: some nurturing/caring, others straight to the point

I co-create with youth -- leads to pathways for engagement, public speaking, activitism(hosting virtual activism work, social media organizing)

Questions for Discussion:

  • Are youth involved in your work? If so, what are your best practices to make them feel included and empowered within your work?
  • We try to follow the "Flower of Participation" model: https://www.youthdoit.org/themes/meaningful-youth-participation/flower-of-participation/ -- We're using this as a framework to integrate youth into our team. We still have a ways to go, but are in open discussions / reflections around what is working and what is not. (Project: https://hcdexchange.org/)
  • Asking youth to lead sessions within our community gatherings
    • (we have some other structures but def not best practice...)
  • Youth are involved in the sense we are wanting to reach youth with educational resources to help them learn both cooking skills and critical thinking skills. We have created a curriculum that teachers can assign to students and hopefully complete together. The curriculum includes video demonstrations and interactive activities for the students to complete. We have also been hosting virtual cooking nights where we will invite families to participate as we demonstrate a cooking expeience (like baking cookies).
  • Debate: creating a structure where youth can research their own arguments and folks have to listen to them.
  • Youth group: letting folks bring readings and suggest ideas for activities
  • Technological difficulties: Many youth have lack of access to the tech that we often use depending on their socioeconomic background/location/other social factors. What are ways you think tech can serve youth to serve their passions and empowerment?
  • I think about this mostly (again) from a parenting perspective and for us, we have the technology but there are still big hurdles around kind of basic things like using it responsibly and staying organized (charge it every night; organization as a life skill; recognizing that that alone is hard without hands on support); The other thing I am thinking about a lot is just understanding what is out there and where it comes from.
  • I think technology can help youth stay connected with mentors and peers in a way that wouldn't have been possible years ago. I also think that it's important to be teaching youth about issues of privacy and ownership of data – to be mindful of what they are putting out into the world. I think that governments and foundations should be supporting school districts to help all students have access to technology and internet so that they can stay connected with their mentors and peers, and continue to learn.
  • This is super tough... so many challenges around access with the youth our community serves. The power goes out. Not everyone has a device. Data is expensive. Like in other places, access to tech is depends on level of affluence. TBH I wonder if it at times exacerbates inequalities. The folks who have access can join groups, learn from each other, collaborate, develop leadership and organizational skills, etc.
  • What are some challenges you’ve seen with access to tech and youth organizing/empowerment during the pandemic?
  • (The sixth grader apparently doesn't have class today so I'm trying to keep him on task with homework)
    • But as a foster parent I'm always trying to figure out how to plug new kids into projects that they will feel good about.


  • Philanthropic structures can make things challenging -- who gets paid, who has a position, etc. (still need to deliver on a grant, have one "youth representative", blah blah)
  • Don't make it a competition between youth -- be clear about opportunities and selection criteria
  • Bring your talents and keep showing up


  • Leaving org... "we're going to go with you" (13-20yrs)
  • Each of our lived experience will be so different
  • We have different backgrounds, create space to explore those and make sense of the pieces of their life, depending on what their passions are
  • Creating space has been really beneficial / pause... you go ahead and speak
  • Feedback: Deep connection, empathy