RYSE Grand Opening in 2008

After eight years on the Richmond landscape, the RYSE Youth Center is a place where integral parts of a hurting and glorious city come to shed conflict so that they may seek and create solutions.

A young woman sits in the recording studio staring at her notebook in silence. There is no calm hum here but the chest-pumping shake of kick drums and keyboard stabs.

 

Down the hall in the kitchen youth play microwave roulette, heating up soup as they cross the after-school bridge between lunch and dinner or finally have their first and/or only meal of the day. They discuss slut shaming, a young feminist conversation for which they develop language on the spot.

On the other side of the building in the education room students crowd around a table for multi-subject tutoring, debating the hierarchy of YouTube dance video preferences between readings of the Periodic Table.

Down the hall in the group room the on-site therapist rises between sessions to cover a shift at the front desk.

Everywhere youth press for attention silently and in chorus. Every day. Always.

It wasn’t always this way.

In the early 2000s, the youth of Richmond were in a predicament. Before RYSE, back when the city—in particular this generation of young people—was suffering through what seemed to be a persistent stream of homicides, back in that beginning, before an engaged youth voice was chiseled into civic life, before anyone set forth to rethink young people’s place in the city, before all of that, there in the open corners of Richmond were its youth. And the youth wanted safety and insisted on being heard. 

In those days, Kimberly Aceves’ work in Richmond was as Executive Director of Youth Together, an intellectual clearinghouse of youth activism emanating out from the heart of Oakland. As violence piqued in Richmond, Kimberly wasn’t the only person taking note. The youth were moving.

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Kimberly speaking at the RYSE Grand Opening in 2008

In support of youth organizers, Kimberly, along with co-founder Kanwarpal Dhaliwal and adult allies like County Supervisor John Gioia, began working to address the emotional, mental, and political health of local youth in site-specific, innovative ways. 

It took a team to build the Center from the ground up and to sow seeds toward sustainability. It took the team, the city, a small squad of investors, and a staff dedicated to seeing out a vision developed and set by young people. It took years of risks, trials, errors, and successes to get where we are today.

Our journey has been a long one, but we are just getting started.

 

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