The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified social inequalities across health access, civil rights, and notably for many students and young people – disparities that exist in the education system. Across the nation and state, young leaders have seized this moment as an opportunity to raise their voices and push for action. In the process, these young people have created space for themselves at the decision-making table and have become critical players in creating change through impactful grassroots and digital organizing efforts. At the leading-edge of youth organizing is GENup—a California-based, nationwide student-led social justice organization advocating for education through the power of student youth voices. Already, GENup has influenced dozens of pieces of legislation that center student voices and uplift educational equity.
GENup fights for an education system that prioritizes students and educators, creates equal opportunity and resources for all students, pays educators a fair wage, empowers students and teachers to thrive within their communities, and inspires students to take agency over their own education. They are working toward this vision by creating a unique educational policy reform advocacy approach supported by an expansive network of 100+ chapters (delineated by school districts) across the state, 4,000+ passionate student organizers, and student board members who serve as policy liaisons and developers.
Since their establishment GENup has advocated and created initiatives for:
- AGES, or A-G Ethnic Studies—a petition to the UC Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools to make Ethnic Studies a required course for entry into any UC.
- The Divesting School Resource Officers (SROs) — a campaign to remove School Resource Officers (law enforcement officers stationed in schools) from campuses.
- Take a Seat Campaign —an initiative to establish student board positions at California school districts that currently do not offer students the opportunity to sit on the school board.
In addition to these initiatives, 19 bills that GENup lobbied, supported, and co-wrote with other student advocacy organizations such as the California Student Board Members Association (CSBMA), were signed into law during the 2021 legislative season. These bills include::
- AB101— requires students to pass an Ethnic Studies course as a graduation requirement.
- AB824—grants students the right to appoint a student board member to their County Board of Education, co-written with CSBMA.
- AB46— establishes the California Youth Empowerment Commission.
GENup is creating unique opportunities for students throughout California to get involved in their community and advocate at a statewide level for substantive policy reform.