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Racial Justice + Abolition Training Program

Applications for the Spring 2023 program are now closed!

Program Dates: February 8, 2023—June 3, 2023

Program Description: 

Youth Voices Lead is a community training program for youth organizers (ages 15-18) to strengthen their human rights knowledge and artistic tools and discover how to take action for abolition and racial justice change.

In collaboration with the Initiative for a Just Society (IJS) at Columbia University, this cohort will engage around the concept of abolition as it relates to mass incarceration, policing, and racial discrimination in the United States. This program will provide emerging youth leaders with an opportunity to connect the larger concepts of abolition to issues that directly impact their communities.

In this program, participants will: 


  • Learn about artivist principles (the intersection of art and activism) and abolition; 

  • Learn how to create artwork for self-expression and digital content for social change;

  • Meet other incredible youth from across New York City and build a community of young organizers and leaders;

  • Be exposed to artivists working on human rights issues;

  • Experience and learn how to lead activities to raise awareness and action around racial justice and abolition in their community; 

  • Participate in a cumulative project to share their newly-learned community teachings and tools for activism; 

  • Receive a stipend of at least $250 to honor their labor.


Participants will be expected to: 


  • Attend 15, two-hour weekly sessions;

  • Complete all program paperwork before the start of the first program session; 

  • Complete all evaluation surveys (pre, mid, and post) and two, 20-minute check-ins with an ARTE team member; 

  • Meet with their Columbia University student mentor (around 30 minutes per week) to reflect on the sessions and work on their final project; 

  • Create a final project to be showcased at the final community event on Saturday, June 3; 

  • Actively participate in all programming and any outside activities (includes having Zoom video on during any virtual sessions).

  • We also ask each applicant to provide us with the name and contact information of an adult mentor (separate from the Columbia University student mentor). An adult mentor is someone who we can periodically reach out to and invite to the final program event. They can be a teacher, school counselor, coach, older sibling, etc, but they should be 21+. It is okay if you don't have an adult mentor now, but if selected, you must have one before the start of the program.


The program will start on Wednesday, February 8 and end the first week of June. As of right now, Youth Voices Lead will be a hybrid program, taking place both virtually and in-person whenever possible. For this reason, we are currently only seeking applicants who reside in New York City.


This program is generously supported by the Initiative for a Just Society (IJS) at Columbia University.


Read what participants from the previous YYL cohorts have to say about the program:

I will absolutely use this experience in the future! The knowledge I've gained and topics I've learned has opened my eyes on issues I would usually overlook because I felt like there could be nothing done. That mindset however, was wrong and it's because of ARTE that I realized this. Everything I do matters.

I hope you continue to empower, engage and bring youth activists together. The work you do truly gives us an opportunity to explore our voices and person.


My favorite part of the program was how I got to interact with people my age that were as passionate and willing to learn as I am. I loved how the information I received in our weekly meetings always gave me a deeper perspective on how racial inequalities are always prevalent in our day to day lives. From this experience, I have learned and gained so many skills such as organization and teamwork that are applicable for my future advocacy activities.

Through this process, I learned how to use my voice and advocate for issues in the form of art. I gained a strong understanding that art can also be a form of self expression and activism.

Thank you for making this program really fun and educational. I really looked forward to our meetings as they helped me to have a stress free mind and cheered me up!

We are currently prioritizing youth in New York City, but stay in touch here if you are interested in joining future Youth Voices Lead cohorts!

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