More than 230 students from South Los Angeles neighborhoods gathered for a two-day youth leadership summit last weekend at UCLA. The event, put on by Good Jobs LA and the Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA) at UCLA, sought to educate and mobilize today’s youth to be tomorrow’s leaders.

“This is a space for South L.A. students to learn about the issues impacting their communities and to better understand themselves and their roles in bringing change,” said Nayra Pacheco, one of 10 Good Jobs LA interns who organized the summit. “Our communities need leadership, and the best place to start is with young people.”

Workshops, based on conversations with local students over the past months, were geared towards providing young people with the tools they need to become leaders. Topics included job readiness, college preparation, community activism and organizing, political action, artistic expression, environmental justice, understanding identity issues and the role of corporate America in creating economic inequality.

Just stepping onto a college campus opened some students’ eyes to new possibilities. “I learned about programs that can help me go to college even if my family doesn’t have a lot of money,” said Amber McKenzie, a South Los Angeles pupil at the Accelerated School. “After talking about the issues hurting our neighborhoods and learning how young people have the tools to fight for change, I’m preparing myself to become a leader and role model in my community.”

Summit organizers provided transportation and healthy meals on both days of the event, despite a student turnout that far exceeded expectations. Each day’s session was more than eight hours long and involved multiple workshops, group activities and break-out sessions.

On Sunday, before arriving at UCLA, participants met at Perry Middle School for hands-on gardening instruction by Henry Washington, a Perry Middle School campus aide who volunteers his time working with youth at the school’s CARE Garden. “When you teach a child to garden, they learn to take care of themselves and the community.”

CARE (Character, Attitude, Respect, Education) is a take-off on the school’s motto which says character, plus attitude, plus respect plus education equals success.

After the youth summit, Good Jobs LA will continue to informally engage young people on being leaders in their communities through its regular activities.

Good Jobs LA is a coalition of community members and organizations committed to holding wealthy corporations accountable for contributing their fair share to our economic recovery and calling for investments in struggling communities to create good jobs.