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Youth Empowerment Summer: Crisis Response and Lessons for
the Future of Collective Action and Work-based Learning

Keywords: Collective Action, Organizational Networks, Remote Learning, Work-based Learning, Social and Emotional Learning, Advocacy, Policy Change, Rapid Response, Covid-19


The Youth Empowerment Summer coalition formed in response to the Covid-19 crisis as New York City worked to transition to remote learning and following the announcement of the cut of the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program. With the goal of providing early work experiences for teens during Summer 2020, a group including more than 100 nonprofits, community-based organizations, private funders, advocacy groups, intermediary organizations, and, critically, youth activists, came together to ensure that as many teens as possible had high quality experiences. Its work combined efforts around policy and advocacy with supplemental partnerships, funding, and peer-led learning among youth workers and educators. The YES coalition successfully advocated for partial restoration of the city program and created a supplemental support structure for providers through over $1 million in grants leading to 55 implementation and technical assistance partnerships.

My work on YES spanned roles of coalition design, implementation, and research. Working with the Hive NYC Learning Network, one of coalition's organizing bodies, I led a team that designed key elements of the coalition including partnership brokerage systems and a professional learning community. In my research role, I collaborated with Student Success Network to to lead an inquiry focused on a multilevel analysis of the YES coalition formation and implementation.


  • Brian Cohen, Beam Center

  • Sara Vogel, New York University

  • Ofelia Mangen, Columbia University

  • Candace Brazier-Thurman, ExpandED Schools

  • Saskia Trail, ExpandED Schools

  • Lucy Herz, Student Success Network

  • Alexandra Lotero, Student Success Network

  • David Phelps, Telos Learning

  • Colin Angevine, Telos Learning


  • The Wallace Foundation



  • Santo, R., Herz, L., Phelps, D., Lotero, A., & Angevine, C. (2021). Youth Empowerment Summer: Crisis Response and Lessons for the Future of Collective Action and Work-based Learning. New York, NY: Student Success Network and Telos Learning.

  • Santo, R., Phelps, D., Angevine, C., Lotero, A., & Herz, L. (2021). Beyond home and school: community-based media and youth voice on pandemic life in the United States. Journal of Children and Media, 15(1), 112-116.

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