The Deputy Director position is new for the organization. What are you most excited to do or implement in your role as Deputy Director at Youth Speaks?
The fact that a Deputy Director was created was a big indicator for me of the direction Youth Speaks was going. Often times the emergence of a role like this means that a board and team is being intentional about disrupting hierarchical structures of leadership in organizations. So, as the new Deputy Director, I’m excited to stay true to that cause. I want to ensure that our systems and new home at 265 Shotwell are empowering our team to do the work they love, the work that brought them to the organization, in a more efficient way.
Tell us about your vision for the future of Youth Speaks.
Youth Speaks is an amazing organization that has equipped so many of our current leaders with the tools they have needed to advocate, lead movements, build strong policies, and inspire future generations of leaders. My vision for Youth Speaks is that we continue to do just that and expand the “stages” and platforms we use to amplify youth voices and stories.
Why do you believe youth voice and expression are important?
There is no better feedback on our systems - policy, environmental, justice, built environment, societal norms, etc. - than those experiencing this firsthand with fresh eyes. There is a rawness to youth voices that forces us to look in the mirror that they are holding up to us. If it is cultivated in the right environment, youth voice and expression can lead to great changes. This is what makes working at Youth Speaks so exciting!
As Youth Speaks prepares to move into a new home in the Mission and reopen our doors to our communities, how do you envision Youth Speaks showing up and being a resource for the Mission community?
Our new home at 265 Shotwell was built on the shoulders and hard work of Mission community activism and determination. In their activism, the Mission community forced the city to rethink what authentic community development looked like. From advocating for affordable housing, from the building and naming of In Chan Kaajal Park, to Jess Sabogal’s incredible mural honoring Yolanda López, our new home is an outcome of a deep community struggle. Every time we activate this space with our youth programming and productions, work with community partners and integrate the residents of 2060 Folsom, we are honoring the new world that Mission activists have engineered.
In the last year and a half, the concept of “sharing space” and being in community shifted dramatically to socially distanced and virtual spaces. As we safely return to in-person activities, how do you imagine reconnecting with each other in ways that are meaningful?
My entryway into Youth Speaks was as a guest judge for the 2022 Teen Poetry Slam. It was our first production in-person in over 2 years. One of the first things that was abundantly clear was that each and every person felt part of the team. It was so energizing to see every person on the team jump in to help. In many ways, the nature of our work already helps us connect and build stronger team bonds, and our new home and new workspace need to support that as well. Our team meetings, sharing meals together, staying up to date on the latest Vibe Check from MarComms, and celebrating each other’s wins, all will continue to be essential ways we continue to meaningfully engage with one another.
Being an SF native, you have seen the city change firsthand. In what ways do you think Youth Speaks can bring awareness to issues impacting communities of color in SF. Why do you think the work we can do in SF is important?
I experienced SF as a first-generation immigrant youth. It’s a lens many of our youth have in this city. From a young age, we support our parents to navigate the city’s systems and their struggles become our struggles really quickly. We are seeing many families leave this city and our youth are deeply impacted by this. Youth Speaks’ work is imperative in amplifying the power of youth-led narratives.
During the pandemic, many of us experienced isolation and disconnection. How have you maintained your sense of belonging throughout it all?
A solid bubble :-) It was certainly challenging at times. These last couple of years also saw many calls to action as well. In many ways, those calls to action or working on Get Out the Vote campaigns in different communities also helped me feel connected to others in meaningful ways.
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To fulfill this, we aim to adhere as strictly as possible to the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG 2.1) at the AA level. These guidelines explain how to make web content accessible to people with a wide array of disabilities. Complying with those guidelines helps us ensure that the website is accessible to all people: blind people, people with motor impairments, visual impairment, cognitive disabilities, and more.
This website utilizes various technologies that are meant to make it as accessible as possible at all times. We utilize an accessibility interface that allows persons with specific disabilities to adjust the website’s UI (user interface) and design it to their personal needs.
Additionally, the website utilizes an AI-based application that runs in the background and optimizes its accessibility level constantly. This application remediates the website’s HTML, adapts Its functionality and behavior for screen-readers used by the blind users, and for keyboard functions used by individuals with motor impairments.
If you’ve found a malfunction or have ideas for improvement, we’ll be happy to hear from you. You can reach out to the website’s operators by using the following email
Our website implements the ARIA attributes (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) technique, alongside various different behavioral changes, to ensure blind users visiting with screen-readers are able to read, comprehend, and enjoy the website’s functions. As soon as a user with a screen-reader enters your site, they immediately receive a prompt to enter the Screen-Reader Profile so they can browse and operate your site effectively. Here’s how our website covers some of the most important screen-reader requirements, alongside console screenshots of code examples:
Screen-reader optimization: we run a background process that learns the website’s components from top to bottom, to ensure ongoing compliance even when updating the website. In this process, we provide screen-readers with meaningful data using the ARIA set of attributes. For example, we provide accurate form labels; descriptions for actionable icons (social media icons, search icons, cart icons, etc.); validation guidance for form inputs; element roles such as buttons, menus, modal dialogues (popups), and others. Additionally, the background process scans all of the website’s images and provides an accurate and meaningful image-object-recognition-based description as an ALT (alternate text) tag for images that are not described. It will also extract texts that are embedded within the image, using an OCR (optical character recognition) technology. To turn on screen-reader adjustments at any time, users need only to press the Alt+1 keyboard combination. Screen-reader users also get automatic announcements to turn the Screen-reader mode on as soon as they enter the website.
These adjustments are compatible with all popular screen readers, including JAWS and NVDA.
Users can also use shortcuts such as “M” (menus), “H” (headings), “F” (forms), “B” (buttons), and “G” (graphics) to jump to specific elements.
We aim to support the widest array of browsers and assistive technologies as possible, so our users can choose the best fitting tools for them, with as few limitations as possible. Therefore, we have worked very hard to be able to support all major systems that comprise over 95% of the user market share including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Opera and Microsoft Edge, JAWS and NVDA (screen readers), both for Windows and for MAC users.
Despite our very best efforts to allow anybody to adjust the website to their needs, there may still be pages or sections that are not fully accessible, are in the process of becoming accessible, or are lacking an adequate technological solution to make them accessible. Still, we are continually improving our accessibility, adding, updating and improving its options and features, and developing and adopting new technologies. All this is meant to reach the optimal level of accessibility, following technological advancements. For any assistance, please reach out to