Purpose + Story
We are an organization of youth, led by youth and supported by adults, who are united by a common purpose: to increase youth power and create positive social change. To do this, we develop counter-cultural values, build relationships across differences, train and develop leaders, identify key issues of concern and take action for justice. Our goals are to improve the lives of young people, increase real political participation and build community.
BYOP began more than ten years ago and was originally known as the Roxbury Church Collaborative. At a time when youth violence was claiming many victims in Boston neighborhoods, a group of pastors wanted to create a space for youth to take positive ownership of their communities. Liz Steinhauser, the group’s first organizer, brought together many neighborhood church youth groups to work toward this purpose. The new community won their first victory by re-opening the Melnea Cass Skating Rink! Energized by this victory, the Roxbury Church Collaborative began the move toward more broad issues and successfully extended the time for the Student T-Pass from 6pm to 8pm (in 2009, BYOP succeeded again in a win for our Youth Way on the MBTA campaign, further extending the Student Pass from 8pm to 11pm.)
As the Roxbury Church Collaborative grew beyond its native community to other areas of Boston and began to include public schools and Jewish organizations in addition to churches, we became the Boston Youth Organizing Project – “-area” was added soon after.
BYOP partnered with an adult community organizing group, the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO), bringing over 500 (of roughly 4,000 total attendees) to their founding assembly and forming a strong partnership in which we supported each other in campaigns.
We also built alliances with countless other youth and community organizations with like-minded goals and values. BYOP went on to sign a contract with Boston Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Payzant to improve bathroom facilities in our public schools; got Mayor Menino and the Boston City Council to add $1 million to the BPS budget for textbooks, passed the first legislation in the country to lower the local voting age (currently pending at state level) and won numerous local campaigns through school & congregational chapters.
Countless young people, and their allies, have worked hard since BYOP first began to build a strong organization that has won concrete improvements in the lives of youth, and made administrators and officials respect and include youth in the decision-making processes that affect their lives! The rest of our story is being written as you read this. We look forward to continue building BYOP with you!