In the wake of the economic turmoil brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, communities across California have been diligently searching for ways to rebuild and recover. Among these efforts is the Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF), a beacon of hope for creating a sustainable and equitable future for our state.
The State of California’s $600 million CERF program was created to support the development of inclusive economic plans through regional collaboratives. At its heart, CERF seeks to diversify our local economies and nurture sustainable industries that offer high-quality job opportunities to all Californians.
As we navigate this critical juncture in our economic history, it’s essential to ensure that all voices are heard, including the voices of our youth. Young people, after all, are not just the future of our great state; they are active stakeholders in the present. This is where CA FWD’s Young Leaders Advisory Council comes into play. We believe that engaging our youth in the CERF initiative is not just a choice; it’s a necessity.
The vision of CERF is clear: to build an equitable and sustainable economy across California’s diverse regions while fostering long-term economic resilience on the path to a carbon-neutral future. This is a lofty goal, one that requires innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. Who better to provide these than the young minds who will inherit the consequences of our actions today?
Our team from YLAC embarked on a mission to promote youth participation in Orange County, encouraging them to fill out surveys, partake in important live dialogues and provide input on CERF. It’s not just about hearing what they have to say; it’s about empowering them to be part of the solution. We firmly believe that involving youth in the decision-making process is an investment in our shared future.
The importance of incorporating youth voices into CERF cannot be overstated. Young people bring a unique perspective to the table. We are natural innovators, unafraid to challenge the status quo and envision a brighter tomorrow. Our concerns and aspirations must shape the economic recovery of our state. We are not just asking to be stakeholders; we are driving change.
Our experience engaging with Orange County’s youth has been nothing short of inspiring. They brought forth innovative ideas, a deep understanding of the needs of their community and a passion for change. In all of our conversations, they envisioned a future where job opportunities align with environmental sustainability, where everyone has an equal shot at success, and where the scars of the pandemic become catalysts for positive transformation.
The journey was not without its challenges. Convincing young people to take an interest in economic policies was a formidable task. Yet, we found that when we frame it as a chance to shape their own futures, they rise to the occasion. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and their insights invaluable.
As we continue to navigate the complex web of economic recovery and sustainability, let us remember that the voices of our youth matter. They hold the key to innovative solutions and fresh perspectives that can drive our state forward. The Community Economic Resilience Fund is not just about rebuilding; it’s about reimagining. And it’s about time we give our youth a seat at the table to help sculpt the California they want to inherit.
CERF is more than just a program; it’s a promise—a promise that together, we can build a brighter, more resilient future for California. Let’s ensure that promise includes the voices of our youth, for they are the architects of our tomorrow.
Josh Lewis is co-chair of the Young Leaders Advisory Council.