This article originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, December 2021.

Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective (IEIYC) cultivates a safe place for immigrant youth to meet. Through engaging with these youth and providing programming, the organization provides them with the tools to pursue higher education and living-wage jobs.

The organization’s Undocumented Mentorship Academy (UMA), an 8-week program, provides resources for academic and professional development. The academy covers writing a resume, public speaking, and understanding their rights. The program was co-created by other undocumented youth and is tailored to the experiences that mentors have had in achieving their goals.

Each cohort of UMA includes 10 youth and 10 mentors who work together through the program. This creates a support network of peers who can share their challenges and success. Mentees also learn about civic engagement, advocating for their rights through public comments and emailing local representatives.

“We do keep folks at the forefront of the organization by empowering them and also working alongside them so they can increase their agency in the world,” the organization’s development coordinator, Marlen Chavez said. “It’s something that is really needed in the Inland Empire because our region is often overlooked.”

According to Chavez, the Inland Empire is under-resourced compared to other regions and IEIYC is the only organization regionally doing this work and the demand for their services is high.

Many of the graduates of the UMA program had never considered attending college but chose to attend once they understood the resources available to them. Over 50 alumni have continued on to college, professional jobs and to work at larger nonprofit organizations that support the community. Some of these graduates of the program come back to mentor or collaborate on projects.

IEIYC has also offered programs that give undocumented youth the tools to advocate for and address their health needs. This has included workshops on how to speak to local representatives about community health. The organization has also provided COVID-19 safety outreach, internet safety workshops, and food sovereignty. In addition, IEIYC has also created a safe space to talk about mental health and the cultural stigmas that make it challenging to discuss.

Recently, IEIYC received a grant through the Inland Empire Community Foundation’s Youth Grantmakers Program. The organization depends on donations and grants to provide its services. IEIYC hopes to grow and increase its available programming. Ultimately, the organization would like to offer more programs that focus on the overall well-being of individuals. However, the staff is currently stretched thin, and the organization will require more support to increase its programmatic offerings.

On November 19, IEIYC held its 2021 Nuestras Raices: Our healing Path to Liberation Fundraiser at the Garcia Center for the Arts. The event had over 100 people in attendance and featured the organization’s first photo voice exhibit which was created by UMA alumni. The event included a silent auction for gift baskets provided by local businesses. Venders included Sign of Love candles, MeanFrog Jewelry, Shopsayuri.ie, Minotenangos, Sunrose Coffee, La cocina de Maria FoodTruck,  Jasmine_Craft_Shop, Teofilo Coffee, and El Platanito de Juanito.

Individuals wishing to support the organization can still donate to the fundraiser. Donations support the organization’s work with undocumented youth including DACA information sessions, CA Dream Act guidance, Know Your Rights workshops, and other activities. Donations can be made at bit.ly/IEIYC21 or texting ‘HEALINGP2L’ to 44-321.

“It isn’t about giving the people we work with everything, but giving them the tools, opportunities, and support,” Chavez said. “We’re here every step of the way.”

More information: theieiyc.org or (909) 451-9902

Inland Empire Community Foundation has been working for over 80 years to strengthen Inland Southern California through philanthropy.