Investing in our youth is investing in our community’s success– it's the most important investment we can make. I know firsthand what can be accomplished when given an opportunity. The day I received my college acceptance letter was one of the proudest moments of my life. As a first-generation college student, I was given the opportunity to go to Cal State Dominguez Hills through the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP), an experience that set me on a path toward a better future.
I have been uplifting and prioritizing youth voices for nearly a decade through efforts such as leading the city to formally accept President Obama’s Challenge to build a ‘My Brother’s Keeper Community’ — an initiative that strengthened collaboration in the city to provide greater opportunities for boys and young men of color, expanding access to leadership and technology programs such as the YMCA Youth Institute for North Long Beach middle schoolers, and implementing a Participatory Budgeting process that gave youth in North Long Beach the power to decide how to spend part of a public budget – a process that promoted leadership development, civic engagement and public budgeting skills among high school students and adults.
I also understand the importance of giving youth the second chances they deserve. That's why we created the Promising Adults, Tomorrow’s Hope (PATH) youth diversion program that offers youth ages 16-24 who commit a minor offense a choice: education and workforce opportunities or criminal prosecution. Most recently, I championed a ballot measure that created structural funding to create an Office of Youth Development in the city, creating the infrastructure to invest in youth for decades to come.
Youth and emerging adults, ages 0 to 24, make up 37% (169,502) of our city, with 86% being youth of color. Today’s young people are facing extraordinary and unprecedented challenges: growing up in a global pandemic, national reckonings with racial injustice, and increasing economic uncertainty. Investing in the mental and physical wellness of our young people and ensuring youth are growing and developing in conditions where they can thrive must be a top priority for our city.
HOW WE WILL LEAD
Ensuring access to quality and affordable early childhood education programs for children 0 to 5
The science is clear: 90% of a child’s brain is formed by the age of 5, and high-quality early childhood experiences lay the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and development. Children who are provided early education opportunities are more likely to read at grade level, graduate from high school, avoid involvement in the criminal justice system, and have a higher earning potential.
In partnership with the Mayor’s Fund for Education and the city’s Early Care and Education (ECE) Committee, we will work to increase access and affordability for infant/toddler and preschool-aged early care and education options, collaborate with our school district to support a seamless implementation of Gov. Newsom’s universal pre-k initiative and work to stabilize our ECE sector as it recovers from the impacts of the pandemic and navigates the changing landscape that universal pre-k will present.
Expanding availability and funding for youth development and leadership programs for school-aged children and teens
Our young people need inclusive, safe spaces that foster a caring environment in which to grow and develop. When we provide youth with quality positive development programs that promote social connectedness, we effectively decrease community violence, increase community safety, promote college and career readiness, and build community attachment among youth that ensures they remain engaged in their schools and communities for decades to come. Investing in the creation of more teen centers at our local parks and supporting youth access to existing leadership development programs that focus on science, technology, entrepreneurship, arts, community healing, civic engagement, and other life skills will be a priority.
Boosting career pathways that ensure economic and social opportunities for youth and emerging adults
Work-based learning programs and high-quality education and training help young people, particularly youth of color and those from low-income families, obtain higher-quality jobs later in life. We will promote the following strategies to support youth as they prepare to transition into their career field of choice:
- Engage the private and nonprofit sectors to increase the availability of youth jobs and paid internships in our city
- Build on the ‘Long Beach College Promise’ to include greater access to training for quality union skilled trade jobs, and other vocational career paths
- Increase work experience opportunities in City departments and prepare youth for positions with the City, including entry-level opportunities
Expanding Safe Passage Programs
Safe Passage Programs, like the one currently at Washington Middle School, involve community policing and our Health Department working with local communities to provide safe routes to students walking or biking to and from school. These programs are proven to reduce crime and keep our students safe. They should be expanded to more neighborhoods and schools, focusing on schools in underserved communities.
Increasing access to mental health and wellness services for children, teens, and parents to support their overall well-being
Youth are experiencing an unprecedented mental health crisis, exacerbated by the stress and isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Rates of youth depression, anxiety, and suicide have more than doubled in the last ten years, prompting a coalition of the nation’s leading experts in pediatric health to declare a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. Youth need widespread access to mental health services and programs that support their overall well-being. Establishing a local mental health bureau within our Long Beach Health Department will help strengthen, scale, and fund local community-based organizations that support mental health and wellness.
Creating a ‘Long Beach Housing Promise’ that promotes housing, education, and quality jobs
Housing insecurity is among the top causes of low educational attainment, mental health challenges, and poor health among our youth. To address the housing supply and affordability crisis, we will form a cross-agency collaboration between the City, Long Beach City College, and the Long Beach Unified School District to establish a ‘Housing Promise’ – a commitment to work together to ensure Long Beach’s children and families are provided the housing stability that they need to ensure educational outcomes, economic opportunity, and a lasting community where everyone thrives. Read more about the ‘Housing Promise’ in the Housing and Homelessness Policy Agenda.
WHAT WE’VE ACCOMPLISHED TOGETHER SO FAR
Spearheaded the Successful Passage of Measure US
In 2020, Vice Mayor Richardson led the citywide campaign to pass Measure US, a 15-cent tax on oil production to invest in Long Beach’s future. Measure US is a critical first step in improving the health and wellness of all residents, especially our Black and Brown families, who experience devastating environmental conditions and injustice. Funds generated will allow us to begin addressing the socioeconomic inequities that exist for young people and provide them with opportunities to take charge of their futures.
Advocated for the Long Beach Youth Fund – $1 Million for Youth
The revenue raised from Measure US allowed the City to create a $1 million Youth Fund for youth-led and youth-serving organizations in Long Beach. The first of these grants went out this September, with over 70 local organizations receiving a combined $318,955 in grants, with an average grant award of over $4,500. Some of the projects already funded include a shoe giveaway for low-income elementary, middle, and high school students, free bereavement services for students who lost a loved one during the pandemic, and a scholarship program for college-aged students of color interested in health careers.
Created the Office of Youth Development
Administering the Youth Fund grants is the Office of Youth Development, created in 2021 through funding for the Framework for Reconciliation. The Office has already taken an important role in supporting local youth’s engagement in City policy development, hosting a yearly Youth Festival where youth can engage in policy-making workshops that impact the Office’s future plans. Additionally, the Office of Youth Development is home to Long Beach’s Future’s First program, which provides scholarships as well as job and vocational training to low-income youth interested in pursuing college, trade school, starting their own business or nonprofit, or working in aerospace.
Championed the Development of the Long Beach My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Initiative
When President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative and called on communities nationwide to address opportunity gaps faced by boys and men of color, Vice Mayor Richardson accepted the challenge to become a MBK Community and developed the Long Beach MBK Local Action Plan. The Long Beach plan was cited as a national model by the Obama Administration, addressing six milestones from early childhood literacy to pathways to college and careers. Vice Mayor Richardson was honored to share our city’s best practices on a MBK panel at the White House in 2016.
Re-established the Commission on Youth and Families
In 2018, Vice Mayor Richardson led the effort to restructure the Commission on Youth and Children into what is now the Commission on Youth and Families, taking a more active role in collaborating with City Departments like Parks & Recreation and starting an annual Youth Forum to engage youth throughout the community in conversations about the issues and concerns facing them, as well as their suggested solutions, which are reported to City Council each year. These changes turned a committee that historically struggled to get a quorum at meetings into one that takes an integral role in supporting City initiatives that benefit youth and families, such as our city’s My Brother's Keeper, Building Healthy Communities, and All Children Thrive programs.
Launched the First Participatory Budgeting (PB) Process in Southern California
One of the first major initiatives that Vice Mayor Richardson brought to District 9 was participatory budgeting (PB), making Long Beach the first city in Southern California to implement the innovative program. PB is a democratic process that gives residents the opportunity to decide how to spend city discretionary funds directly. In District 9, an emphasis was placed on engaging and empowering young people, so anyone 14 and older were eligible to vote. Thousands of North Long Beach residents decided how to spend District 9 one-time infrastructure funds on various projects, including new park fitness zones and the digital marquee at Houghton Park.
Created the P.A.T.H Youth Diversion Program
Vice Mayor Richardson collaborated with the City of Long Beach City Prosecutor’s Office and Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Network to create the Promising Adults, Tomorrow’s Hope (PATH) Program, an innovative diversion program aimed at giving young people the second chances they deserve. PATH offers youth ages 16-24 who have committed a minor offense a choice: occupational training, life skills development, mentoring, job placement, and post-secondary education or criminal prosecution.
Opened the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library
The state-of-the-art Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library (MONL) opened in September 2016. It boasts a 24,655-square-foot facility with an expanded children’s library and family learning center. MONL is one of the highest-attended libraries in the city and, in its first year open, saw a 69% increase in customers compared to the old North library.
Thank you to the civic and community leaders who helped shape our recommendations:
- Dr. Juan Benitez, Board Member, LBUSD Board of Education
- Juanita Doplemore, Trustee, Compton Community College District
- Bob Cabeza, Retired Senior Vice President, YMCA of Greater Long Beach; Owner, R Cabeza LLC
- Lian Cheun, Youth Advocate and Nonprofit Leader
- Gillian Doplemore, City of Long Beach Youth Commissioner, Council District 9
- Uduak-Joe Ntuk, President, Long Beach Community College Board of Trustees
- Romeo Pellum, Head Football Coach, Long Beach Millikan High School
- Lance Robert, President, 100 Black Men of Long Beach, Inc.; Professor, LA Southwest College
*Titles for identification only