Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets (YO S.O.S.) is the youth branch of Save Our Streets Brooklyn. YO S.O.S. gathers young people who have been exposed to violence and who want to make social change and trains them to become peer educators and community organizers in the movement to end gun violence.
Through a combination of hands-on workshops and community organizing opportunities over the course of 8 months, YO S.O.S. participants develop fundamental leadership skills including public speaking, team work, creative problem solving, emotional regulation, networking, event planning, resume writing, and campaign strategies among others. Participants who successfully complete the program receive a stipend, community service credit, and assistance in securing paid summer employment or internship positions.
YO S.O.S. offers after-school workshops 1-2 times a week designed to help participants process the adversity they’ve faced in their lives; build new knowledge and skills; and become powerful leaders in their communities. Workshops cover topics such as community organizing and youth activism, roots of violence, trauma and mental health, conflict de-escalation, diversity and social justice, media literacy, and leadership and communication styles. In addition to core content, workshops are designed to develop transferable skills including public speaking, teamwork, and critical thinking.
Community Organizing and Peer Education:
YO S.O.S. participants work together to design and implement public education campaigns to bring awareness to the issue of gun violence in the community and promote healing and social change. Youth Organizers learn about organizing methods, messaging and marketing, event planning, and group facilitation and deliver workshops and presentations to other youth and to adult stakeholders. Youth Organizers are encouraged to use creative, cutting edge methods to ensure that their campaign messages successfully reach the broader NYC youth community. In the past this has included visual arts, hip-hop song creation and music video production, short film, spoken word poetry, theater, and more. YO S.O.S. also participates in community anti-violence projects, cultural enrichment field trips, and related service projects including the annual Arts to End Violence gallery and block party and the Save Our Streets talent show.
3 C’s: College, Career, and Counseling:
YO S.O.S. participants are exposed to educational and work opportunities throughout the program year. This includes workshops on resume building, interviewing skills, and professionalism in the workplace. Participants also go on college tours, hear from speakers from various career paths, and collaborate with staff to identify their own strengths, interests, and future goals. Towards the end of the program year, staff work with Youth Organizers to place them in summer employment positions or internships.
Additionally, YO S.O.S. applies a strong trauma-informed lens for all programming and service provision. Participants are assigned to a staff mentor who attends to their individual needs, providing one-on-one check-ins with participants, contacting families as needed, and offering customized case management support. As part of the YO S.O.S. curriculum, youth participate in psychoeducational sessions to develop an understanding of trauma’s impact on the brain and on one’s lived experiences. They discuss the connection between community violence and trauma, exploring the four identified categories of trauma symptoms: hyperarousal, avoidance, re-experiencing, and negative alterations in mood and cognition. Youth also participate in workshops on self-care, stress management, and resiliency building.
YO S.O.S. by the Numbers:
- Launched in 2011
- Served more than 300 students on-site from more than 50 schools
- Participants are ages 14-24
- Majority of students are from Central Brooklyn, including Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, East Flatbush and East New York
- Participants receive community service credit and stipends
- Active alumni network includes resource sharing, case management, and paid internships