ARISE was already establishing itself as a force for youth advocacy in a city that’s rich with it (see also: Youth in Action, Young Voices, Providence Student Union, PrYSM, etc.) – and then the state announced it was taking over Providence’s schools.
“I am no longer afraid of speaking out and loudly voicing my concerns,” says Salimatou Kaba, one of ARISE’s Youth Leaders and a senior at Times2 Academy. “I hope by the end of this, adults are listening and being more open-minded to youth voices because this is our reality.”
The organization was founded in 2017 to advocate for the Southeast Asian community. It quickly took on smart fights that drew national attention, and scored victories. Because of their activism, Rhode Island became only the third state to pass the All Students Count Act, which ensures that demographic data used to make policy decisions more accurately reflect the struggles of Cambodians, Hmong, Laotians, and Vietnamese, among the most economically disadvantaged communities in the country. Huffington Post wrote about it.
ARISE also partnered with Alvarez High School to develop a credit-bearing Student-Centered Ethnic Studies curriculum. The Providence Journal covered it.
Some of its Youth Leaders serve as named plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit against the State of Rhode Island over the lack of civics education in public schools, one that’s due in court as this is going to press. Read about it in The Atlantic.
As the state takes the reins in Providence, ARISE is ready to make sure youth voices are not just heard, but listened to. Youth Leaders are already working alongside PSU and PrYSM on a campaign for police-free schools, and they’re trying to make the Ethnic Studies curriculum available to more students, not by calling for more funding, but by advocating for more culturally appropriate professional development opportunities for teachers.
“We will be immersed in everything,” says founding Executive Director Chanda Womack. “Our goal is to work in authentic partnership with the school district, which means challenging the status quo and mediocre practices that have maintained the racial inequities and opportunity gaps that plague our school systems.”