The PFA Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that uses mentorships and leadership education to increase access to advocacy spaces
These are the three main ideals PFA literally and figuratively stand for: Passion, Foundation, and Action. We believe to make a change, you must have a passion for what you're doing. A Foundation is essential, with proper mentors and resources. Action is the last step, because a passionate idea is just that - an idea. An actual change is created when you combine these three steps, which is what we help students do.
Our CEO and some of our students at the Fremont Teachers Protest, in which over 750 students were mobilized in less than a week to walkout and protest in favor of raising teachers' salaries. This was one of the biggest mobilizations that this city has seen.
These are two of our students, Meghna and Charitha, who teamed up for their passion project. They now teach speech and debate at their local middle school, which normally can't afford speech and debate coaching or programs. Their project is centered around bringing speech and debate education in their city's middle schools. They've succeeded within two middle schools so far.
This is our inaugural group of students for the PFA Institute. This is one of the moments where they presented what they were passionate about. They identified a problem within their community and provided implementable solutions that everyone could follow.
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1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
The PFA Institute aims to combat the lack of accessibility within advocacy and leadership spaces. Often, those with the most resources and privilege tend to be the forefront of change, even if marginalized communities are the ones that are impacted the most by the problem. The problem is rooted in the lack of resources, both monetary and mentor-wise, which are often required to create a change in their local or national communities.
2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
The PFA Institute uses multiple avenues to combat this issue, but our main focus is providing a solid support system. We bring in mentors who have already paved the way in their respective industries and let them help the students. For two years, students work with the same mentor to implement their very own passion project within their community. That way, students have a consistent figure who knows how to succeed in the student's area of interest. In addition, we build upon ideas that benefit the community, rather than an individual person. We make sure that our students aren't just helping others in name--they're actually doing the work. Only then can we provide them with the resources they may need.
In short, we combat the underrepresentation of marginalized communities in advocacy and leadership roles through mentorships and careful allocation of resources. We give these students the opportunity to work with industry professionals so they can learn how to gain new perspectives and create new ideas with the guidance of someone experienced. We provide holistic resources, both monetary and otherwise, so they can overcome the hurdle of lack of monetary and other resources.
3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?
Growing up, I was lucky enough to have the resources to pursue some of activist endeavors I wanted. However, as a young queer woman of color, I have found that certain doors have been closed because of my identity and background. As I entered the activist sphere, I noticed how movements and organizations would be exclusionary to the very people who suffered from these issues the most. For example, organizations such as March For Our Lives were and are still making great strides in the gun control movement. At the same time however, students of color, who are often most affected by gun violence, were pushed to the back of the movement.
These combined experiences led me to realize that we don't do enough to amplify the voices of the silenced. The PFA Institute was born out of a need to pass the microphone to those who need to speak up. That's what our entire mission is centered around.
4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”
How can we leave our mark on the world? The PFA Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that brings leadership and advocacy education to traditionally marginalized communities. I am stepping up to make a change because I believe it's time to change how we make a change. We need to learn how to pass the microphone to voices that are traditionally silenced. The PFA Institute achieves this through mentorships for students from these communities so they can implement passion projects to help others.
5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
Ben is a seventh-grader who wants to combat the lack of STEM resources for low-income students. However, Ben is a part of a marginalized community and finds that other groups are exclusionary. Ben decides to join his local PFA Institute chapter and enrolls in the Future Incubator. First semester. Ben learns the basics of public speaking and writing, which are valuable skills. Second semester, Ben begins learning more about advocacy. How can he get involved when he can't vote? What is lobbying?
In his second year, Ben proposes adding a STEM section in the library, a project that will take at least a year. He matches with a mentor and over the next two years, gain access to a national network of mentors and physical/monetary resources for him to achieve his goal. At the end of the two years, he'll present a talk about the problem and how he helped. He'll also tell us how WE can help.
6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
There are organizations that work to get students involved in advocacy. However, our non-profit is unique because we work to get students the accessibility necessary for advocacy involvement. In different youth movements, students of color or other marginalized communities are pushed to the back. We want to close that discrepancy, and while other non-profits work to inform youth about these spaces, we want to open the door for marginalized youth and give them the resources necessary to get involved in these spaces. This is why mentorship and accessibility to passion projects is essential to us
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
So far, we have opened chapters in 5 states: California, Texas, Washington, Oregon, and Massachusetts, and have a total of 13 chapters. We have an average of 20 students in each chapter, all of which are in their first-year of the Future Incubator program. We also have a network of 45 mentors, which is growing (we are expected to onboard another 15 mentors in the next month). Our past students have led movements in their local communities too. Our first chapter was based out of Fremont, CA. One of our students went on to join the founding team of a district-wide students march for teachers. Another student is now spearheading an initiative to build a homeless navigation center within Fremont, despite great opposition from certain groups. The HNC is scheduled to be built and approved extremely soon. These type of projects and impacts are exactly what we want to see as a result of PFA.
8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
By December 2020, we have three main goals. First of all, we want to build our monetary network so we can begin providing larger monetary resources to our students. This monetary network will also allow us to compensate our incredible student team, who work at least 10 hours a week on top of schooling and other responsibilities. Our second goal is to create a 4:1 student-mentor ratio and maintain that continuously, so that our students get the attention they deserve while still allowing them to collaborate with a small group of students. Our third goal is to expand our chapter system to at least 15 states, especially states with low-income populations, since they don't always have the resources that students from well-to-do areas may have.
9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?
10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
Donations less than $100
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?
Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?
Communities of color
Religious minority (non-Christian)
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