Organizing > Youth Empowerment

Who are we?

The Youth Leadership Organization (YLO), founded in 1997. aims to build a permanent strong base of youth leaders within public schools and the community to address the systemic barriers of poverty, militarization and marginalization, and simultaneously create alternatives though political education, art & cultural and movement-building.  Members of YLO all want to make change in their communities, come from across San Antonio, Medina Valley, Austin and South Texas and range in age from 5-25. 

The YLO developed from a framework of involving entire families and aims to strengthen the integration of youth and children into long-term organizing, intentionally engaging them in social justice issues within their community.  Through the YLO, SWU has built a strong popular political education and leadership development program that has involved over 500 young people, ranging in age from elementary school to college. A paid summer internship program is the launching point for integration into year-long organizing through the Organizing Trainee School.  SWU utilizes an intergenerational model in conjunction with fostering youth-led components, promoting the inclusion and representation of all age levels at actions, meetings and during decision-making. This model has succeeded in integrating youth into the board of directors, staff and core community leaders of the organization.

High School Chapters

The YLO organizes ‘clubs’ a space where high school students can develop leadership skills and social justice awareness while having an outlet to address injustices and implement innovative solutions.  Clubs are member led and organize weekly meetings.  At Edison High School, students has launched a school-wide recycling program, is starting an organic student-run garden and seeks to advance opportunities for students beyond high school.  The YLO is working to incorporate a Chicano/Chicana studies curriculum into the district.


Expanding the base and developing new young leaders will enable the program to challenge the injustices inside the school systems, develop alternatives to the school-to-military and school-to-jail funnel, protect the future from climate injustices, launch an art, culture and media center, incorporate political education curriculum both inside and outside of the schools and form a center for youth workers to demand just wages and working conditions. 

Equal Pay for Equal Work

The tea isn’t so sweet at the infamous Bill Miller. Bill Miller Bar-B-Q is a private, family owned company that was started in San Antonio, Texas in 1950. The majority of the workers are youth from the ages of 16 to 25.  With over 45 restaurants across the city, the wages are directly linked to the location of the restaurant. In the affluent northside, wages start at $9.00
per hour, while the predominantly working-class and people of color communities in the South, West and East receive only $6.50 to $7.00 an hour for the same work.

The Youth Leadership Organization launched a campaign in 2007 for equal pay for equal work. Through research, direct action and media outreach, the demands has been popularized and over 1,200 customers signed resolution for Equal Wages. While the management has avoided several attempts to meet and refuse to comment on the issues, many workers have seen a $1.00/hr or more increase. The youth will continue to exert pressure and are preparing for a boycott if demands are not met.

Support our Campaign.  Sign a postcard for Equal Wages. 

Organizing with Popular Art & Culture


The YLO emphasizes the use of artistic, musical, poetic or theatrical talents as a vehicle for organizing and realizing youth justice. The YLO used music, theatre and presentations to educate, empower and establish a common thread of understanding.  Youth collaborate with other organizations to integrate messages of social justice.  YLO has a social justice centered campaign for incarcerated youth, with a youth-led popular media center as well as with a local young girls’ organization on the Eastside. 

The YLO is building a multi-media center to support youth developed social justice film, photographic, radio and art.

Summer Internship Experience

Since 1997, SWU hosted In June, summer internship program, an 8-week paid intensive.  Activities integrate hands-on organizing experience with education and skill development. Interns are involved in blockwalking for environmental justice, youth campaign development, leadership workshops and activities, media training and public speaking, fundraising, street theatre, poetry, and worker/student rights.

Please click here for the YLO application.



YLO Links

Bill Miller's Postcard

YLO Application

YLO on MySpace