Our History

In 2006, worried about and heartbroken over a spike in youth violence, the San Diego community gathered with a goal to work together better for our children. Led by the work of the San Diego Organizing Project, they identified the catalyst of the tragedy: slashed funding for youth programs and services. Then, the elected officials, community organizers, committed public servants, religious leaders and parents created a plan they believed would bring a better future for San Diego.

The group knew re-establishing funding was only a piece of the solution. Their plan included a Youth Development Office (YDO) that would be devoted to making youth a priority by creating an integrated system that would protect children and youth from being the victims the next time the city faced financial struggles. The YDO would also ensure that the various perspectives and approaches in the county coordinated to support San Diego’s youth.

After years of hard work and advocacy, the establishment of the YDO was set in motion. It would be an office within the City of San Diego with the power to coordinate collaboration for policy development and service provision. Sadly, despite getting very close, the YDO never came to be within the City of San Diego. However, that does not mean good work was not done. The first iteration of the YDO helped set in motion a regional initiative to lower the rate of youth who are not working or in school. Learn more about the San Diego Youth Opportunity Pathways Initiative.

Now, after working with youth, elders and everyone in between to chart a new course ahead, we have changed the way we are doing our work. Youth will build the power needed to create change. Youth will collaborate with adults to improve the youth development ecosystem. Youth will demand prioritization from the decision makers in their community. Youth Will.

What Sets Us Apart

The young leaders who are Youth Will. We are the only regional organization where young people from the north, south, east, and west unite to drive the change they seek. We envision a youth-led movement by elementary to university students, young adults transitioning out of foster care and formerly incarcerated youth, and everyone in between.


Warsan Artan, Director of Communications & Internal Development 

Safia Haidari, Director of Policy Advocacy & Organizing 

Kathryn Tam Poeschel, Policy & Organizing Staff

Adult Mentors

Paul Watson, Youth Power-Building Mentor

Khea Pollard, Youth Prioritization Mentor

Tareq Haidari, Youth Development Mentor

Youth Leaders

Subrein Damanhoury, Organizing & Resource Ambassador

Danielle Bongulto, Organizing & Resource Ambassador

Khadijah Abdulmateen, Organizing & Resource Ambassador

Laila Del Rio, Organizing & Resource Ambassador

Victoria Dinov, Organizing & Resource Ambassador

Precious Letchaw, Organizing & Resource Ambassador

Sydney Mckenna, Organizing & Resource Ambassador

Our Board

Margie de Ruyter (Board Chair) – Coordinator, Career Pathways, College & Career Readiness – Learning & Leadership Services at San Diego County Office of Education

Imani Marshall (Vice Chair) – Evaluation and Learning Analyst, Mid-City CAN

Desjonae Hixon (Secretary) – Student, San Diego City College

Becky Phillpott – Founding Member

James Halliday – Executive Director, A Reason to Survive (ARTS)

Nicky Riordan – Program Officer, Joan B. Kroc INstitute for Peace and Justice, University of San Diego

Josue Hernandez – Business Solutions Specialist, San Diego Workforce Partnership

Irving Pedroza – Attorney, D’Egidio, Shah, & Townsend

Samantha Harmer – Student, University of California, San Diego