Working as an Agent for Social Change

By Henrietta J. Burroughs
East Palo Alto Today
Posted on May 21, 2008


Leave it up to youthful employees to present meaningful insights about the youth in East Palo Alto. Two city employees did just that. At the East Palo Alto City Council’s regularly scheduled Tuesday night meeting on May 20, ‘Amelia Kolokihakaufisi and Sara Sanders made a special presentation about East Palo Alto’s youth. Both Kolokihakaufisi and Sanders are interns who were hired last September by the East Palo Alto Community Services Department to work four days a week for ten months. Their assignment was to create change.
    Kolokihakaufisi and Sanders made their 10 minute presentaton about their 10 month assignment to five attentive council members and a receptive audience which was made up of many of the community’s youth. Their remarks consisted of a 26 slide Powerpoint presentation which they titled “Youth Awakening.” Their presentation grew out of the research they did and the experiences they had while working with the City of East Palo Alto as youth and young adult coordinators.
   In their presentation, the two interns said that they had three objectives in meeting their assignment to create change. The first objective was to organize, participate in and learn about community events and service projects. The second was to continue to establish the East Palo Alto Youth Advisory Council which was started in December 2006 and their third objective was to come up with ideas that would assist young people make a positive transition to adulthood.

Pic.agents_for _change

Sara Sanders, Amelia Kolokihakaufisi and East Palo Alto Community
Services Director Meda Okelo speaking to the East Palo Alto City Council

   Their presentation discussed some of the challenges facing the community’s youth, the positive views the youth have of their community and the negative views that others have of the community. It also discussed the various social activities and agencies within the community and how the various agencies are working together to bring changes.
   For some, an assignment to create change would be daunting, but for Kolokihakaufisi, who is a Pacific Islander, it was an assignment that she said she was prepared to do. Since Kolokihakaufisi and Sanders are also interns with Public Allies, a nationwide social service program run under the AmeriCorps organization, they were trained by Public Allies to be agents for social change and prepped to seek careers in the nonprofit sector. Given her Public Allies training, Kolokihakaufisi said that she was mentally prepared for her assignment
   “It was just a matter of us prioritizing our time and energy appropriately so that we could be involved in bringing needed community change,” she said. So what was change for her? She said change meant seeing more youth involved in the East Palo Alto community, improving the 60% high school dropout rate, giving the youth something to do with their free time, and strengthening the community.
  Sanders who comes from St. Louis, Missouri expressed similar views. She said that working with the city’s youth was “a really good opportunity to implement things and to spark ideas within the youth to start them thinking and to open their eyes so that they could create change for themselves.”
   “We kind of inspired the youth in the community to get involved,” Sanders said. “So many of them have come so far these past nine months using the ideas that we’ve worked on together. By seeing them be so happy makes me really happy because they did not realize things that they could do before,” she said.
   After hearing their presentation before the council, Council member Ruben Abrica told them, “You have started something that has been missing in our community.” East Palo Alto’s Mayor Pat Foster said that they were inspiring. “The youth actually inspire even the adults,” she said. 

Note: To find out more information about their presentation and the East Palo Alto Community Services Department, call (650)853-3140. Senator Barack Obama was on the founding board of Public Allies and his wife Michelle was the organization's founding executive director. To find out more about Public Allies, go to To find out more about AmeriCorps, go to